"SOLD To The Little Lady Over There!" Oh No!
I had attended auctions before moving to the country, but they had been held inside auction houses, and the items sold usually belonged to many different people. But country auctions take place at peoples' homes, and all of their possessions are usually spread out in the yard (even if it is the middle of winter). At the first auction we attended, everything from clothing to tools to cupcake tins were there, along with the numerous odds and ends that had once filled the backs of drawers and dark recesses of cupboards. The more I looked, the more I got to know the person whose whole life was laid out before me on the lawn.
I had been to estate (or tag) sales which were similar in setting, but everything at those was left inside the house and had a pricetag on it. Because people are so scattered in these parts, auctions are preferable to estate sales because an auction guarantees that everything will be sold. The auctioneer doesn't turn off his microphone until every last scrap has found a new owner. Now I'm not saying they force you to buy things, but as the morning drags on, their tactics can become a little pushy. A country auction is not the kind of place where you want to get separated from your spourse. Unfortunately it took us a while to figure this out.
My husband had wandered off somewhere and left me with the bidding card "just in case." I listened and watched as the auctioneer sold off the housewares that covered a folding table, his rambling, almost trance-like voice urging higher bids while his practiced eye roved the crowd for any new bidders entering the arena. I tried to keep my mind off my frozen toes, wondering for the millionth time why we couldn't put all this stuff back in the house and bid on it in there. The auctioneer was about to sell a box of items. But wait! That's only going for $1.50! That's so cheap! I quickly shoved my bidding card into the air, hoping I hadn't just said all that out loud. "SOLD to number 58!"
Before I knew it my toes had defrosted, and I was starting to sweat. That warm feeling of belonging had enveloped me as I was thrust into the center of the bidding. Soon I didn't even need my bidding card because the auctioneer and his helper had memorized my number. Then I realized that meant I was now expected to constantly bid and buy. When I dropped out of the bidding for an electric mixer (I had already bought two), the entire crowd kept staring at me, even after I shook my head no several times. What could I do?
"My husband is going to kill me," I murmured as the auction man passed me my new purchase.
When my husband returned, his eyes practically popped out of his head as he surveyed the sea of treasures that surrounded me.
"What happened?" he asked, and not very quietly, but I was in the middle of bidding.
"SOLD to the little lady over there for five dollars!"
"What in the world did you just buy now?"
"Well, um, I'm not exactly sure. But it was only five dollars!"
I am such an easy sell that when I went over to the makeshift snack bar to merely check things out, I walked away with two sodas and three donuts. Five more seconds and I would have had a hamburger, too.
Food is really the only thing that can take my mind off being high bidder, and no auction would be complete without a nibble or two. Convenience cuisine has definitely invaded even the most rural areas, and sometimes the only auction offerings are overpriced sno-cones or candy bars sold by a professional snack vendor. But if you drive up to an auction and cars are parked all over the place, then it's a good bet that the ladies from the church are selling homemade goodies to benefit the hospital. Now I wouldn't say that folks go to thesee auctions simply for the food, but if you look around at one you just might notice that more people are holding up plates than bidding cards.
I picked up on all this stuff pretty quickly, and so when we pulled up to a remote farm one Saturday morning and could barely find a place to park, I left my husband to the tools and farm equipment and headed straight for the edibles. If you time things right and it's a big auction, you can fit in breakfast, lunch, and a couple of snacks--all for about $4.00. Things looked promising this morning because there was a whole swarm of ladies from the church, and they had even set up a big blue and white striped tent to cover all of the tables laden with food.
The first rule of thumb is to never wait until after lunch to purchase your dessert. All of the good stuff will be gone. In fact, I usually buy my lunch at the dessert table--it's a lot easier to rationalize three pieces of pie that way. As I stood there checking out the fried pies, I spied an obviously seasoned old-timer showing a little too much interest in the lemon meringue pie. I casually reached over and grabbed the fattest piece, just in case. After paying for everything, I scoped out the other tables and decided I would come back later for a roast pork sandwich with pickles and onions.
I headed off to find the bidding, walking slowly enough so that the lemon meringue would be gone (and telltale plate and fork disposed of) before I met up with my husband. My timing was off, though, and when I glanced up from shoveling the pie into my mouth, I saw that he was standing five feet away, staring at my plate.
"What is that?" he asked.
"Memom memom puh."
"Can I have a bite?"
That raised an eyebrow; usually I am slightly more subtle.
"You don't even like this stuff."
"Forget it then," he sulked.
Time for some sugar-induced quick thinking on my part.
"Besides, I got you this," I said as I carefully slid my hand into the front pocket of my jeans and produced a greasy, crumpled napkin.
"What is it?"
"It's a fried pie. You'll love it."
He unwrapped it with one finger and stated flatly, "This is only half a fried pie."
He turned his attention back to the bidding, so I pulled a brownie from my jacket pocket and did the same. As it turned out, though, the pie incident was nothing compared to what happened later, but it looks like that story will have to wait until next time.
Copyright 1996 & 2006 FarmgirlFare.com