The auction song
By Christine Tailer
We parked in the field and walked past several rows of vehicles, mostly pickup trucks. The auction was already well underway and I could hear the fast cadence of the auctioneer’s song as we stepped across the grass. I was disappointed that I had missed the first lots, but I was really not too terribly sorry.
Earlier that morning, Greg and I had stopped off to pick up a beautiful 150-year-old sulphide marble that I had won at an online auction the night before. I reached into my pocket and felt the weight of the marble in the palm of my hand. We followed the auctioneer’s call, making our way toward a cluster of folk gathered in a loose circle.
We walked briskly, passed by pallets piled high with assorted farm implements, chains, tools, and I have no idea what else. The palleted treasures ran either side of a gravel drive, in front of four large green shops and sheds. I marvel at what must have been a life-long collection of rakes, shovels, and hoes that leaned up against one of the barns. There were easily sixty feet of these handheld implements, each patiently waiting for a new home, and then I saw two true treasures.
Way down at the end of the long row of pallets and other farm machinery, I saw two large, old bells. I quickly made my way toward them. A fellow was standing beside the larger of the two. I exclaimed what a beauty it was, and he told me that the bell had already been auctioned off, and that he was the lucky one to be bringing it home. With a smile, he told me that I was welcome to ring it. I reached down and took a hold of the weighty pulley wheel and gave it a ring. Its tone was loud, crisp, and clear. He was a lucky man indeed. I was sorry to have missed the chance to bid on the bell, but I still had to smile to feel the weight of the marble in my pocket.
I could hear the auctioneer’s call growing closer to the end of the row, and when I turned, I saw that the crowd had made its way down to the end of the pallets. Greg and I walked over to the throng, arriving just as the auctioneer announced “Okay boys, we’re about to start on the tractors.”
My heart quickened as I glanced around the gathered crowd. There were perhaps three other women. I was one of the “boys.” My bidder number was 300, a good round number, and maybe even a lucky number, but I could clearly see that I was part of what seemed to be a multitude of interested folk. I was thankful to be tall, as Greg and I found our place towards the back of the gathered crowd.
Most of the tractors had been beautifully refurbished, and there were several red McCormick Derring/International Harvesters in the line-up. You likely well know that red is my favorite tractor color, but these red tractors all had tricycle front ends, and did not really intrigue me. What totally caught my eye was a refurbished International Harvester T-4 crawler. I had heard it running when we first arrived. Its paint looked beautiful. Its tracks looked solid, and I imagined how lovely it would be sitting beside my four McCormick Deerings.
Finally, the crowd gathered around the red crawler. Several folk even leaned casually up against it. “Do I hear ten?” called the auctioneer. Everyone was still. His eyes scanned the crowd as he sang out lower and lower numbers. Finally, the bidding began at $6,000, already well over my wishful budget. I kept my hands buried deep in my pockets, and listened as the bids took off and then began to slow. Across the circle, with a barely perceptible nod, stood the happy bidder who would be taking the beautiful red crawler home.
So, Greg and I were left to head back to the creek with an empty pickup truck bed and a trailer that would not need to be hauling a red treasure. There is, however, one gem that I did acquire at this auction that I have not yet mentioned.
You no doubt know how fast paced an auction is, particularly when it involves a farm estate sale that easily includes hundreds of lots to be sold, and so I was amazed when the auctioneer actually paused his fast-paced song. He even let us know that this was something he did not usually do, but he wanted to draw our attention to a smiling elderly man who had just placed the successful bid on a beautifully restored tractor. The auctioneer then told us that this was a fellow who had once owned that tractor, many, many years before when the tractor was close to new. This tractor was truly heading home.
As Greg and I turned to head back down to the creek, the auctioneer’s song no longer beckoned, but followed us across the now mostly empty parking field. Our truck bed may well have been empty, and our trailer would not be put to use, but my pocket was filled with a beautiful weighty marble. Still, and even more importantly, I was leaving with a warm heart, warmed by an elderly gentleman with a beautiful smile, who had followed his dream and was bringing his tractor back home.
Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in Ohio south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at straightcreekvalleyfarm.com.