Sunday, July 18, 2010

At the Auction

     When the chores are done and the weather’s fine, then it’s time to go to the auction. Today, two friends and I spend the morning at an estate sale in West Virginia. Cars and trucks line the road for a half a mile in either direction, so we squeeze onto the grassy shoulder perilously close to a ditch. Caroline jumps out and directs my parking.
     Once the van is secure, we scuttle up the road, dodging oncoming cars and then climb the porch steps of the old farmhouse to register and get our numbers. I am number 206, which means there are 205 bargain hunters ahead of me. It might not be a good day for deals.
     The auctioneer starts with a hay wagon load of boxes. Each box has a variety of household treasures tucked inside its cardboard walls. Nut crackers, boxes of matches, Tupperware, ashtrays, tin boxes, pots with no lids and lids with no pots, paint by number pictures framed and ready to hang, beads, buttons, curtains, sheets, and dish towels. And hidden amidst all of these things might be a piece of depression glass, a tin toy, a rare book, a butter mold. The first hour at any auction is spent poring through the boxes to see what might be tucked under the junk. But, we are late. No time for that. We’ll just have to use our women’s intuition. We push our way through the crowd to plop in the grass on the hill.
     I’ve never been to an auction with this auctioneer so it takes me a while to catch on to his patter. Every auctioneer is different. Dressed in blue plaid and blue jeans, with a farm cap tilted back off his eyes, he leans on his cane and commences to tantalizing.
     “Heey! Lookee here. A genuine tin flower pot shaped like a bedpan. Isn’t that clever? Who’ll give me five dollars and where? How about four? You aren’t looking. You’ll never find a prettier potty. Start me off. I got a dollar, now two, now three. Anyone else? Are you all through and all done? Sold to number 135!
     The lady who buys it raises her card so he can get her number and then hurries forward to claim her prize. The first time I went to a country auction, I was afraid to wave to friends, scratch my nose or nod to acquaintances. I was uncertain about the bidding process and thought any stray movement on my part might be interpreted as a bid. I’ve since learned that sometimes you have to wave pretty hard to get the auctioneer’s attention, but then once you have it, just a slight wrinkle of your forehead is enough to send the bids up. It’s fun to look around and see if you can figure out who’s bidding against you.
     Sue and I jump right in. She buys some galvanized troughs for her lambs and a garden push plow. I buy a box of old pots for three dollars. There’s one white enamelware pot that I’m interested in for decorative purposes, but when I retrieve my pile I discover I’ve also gotten two beautiful enamel bowls, one blue and one sage green. Plus, a tin dishpan and various other pots with holes in them. There are tape labels on the sides proclaiming “All Big Boy,” and “small cherry.” These pots have been used as seedling starters, but now they will get a new life as dog bowls and decorations. Not bad for three dollars.
     A storm blows up and people scatter as the auctioneer and crew rush to pull blue tarps over dressers and sofas. I take a break and Caroline and I haul fifty pounds worth of goods to the van and then pull it closer. Lots of people have left in the deluge. We may get a bargain, yet. Sue stays behind and snags a box of toys and I offer to buy a cute little tin duck from her. We seal the deal and move on to the farm goods across the creek.
     Before I can cross the little bridge, I hear the auctioneer start the bidding on some chicken coops I spied earlier. I splash through the creek, soaking my pants , because these coops are one of the reasons I’m at the sale. I get there just in time to get a real deal on two coops. Sue offers to buy one off of me for a coffee table, but I tell her we’ll have to wait and see if Scott needs both of them. We consider buying some wooden barrels, but decide we can’t stuff them in the van. I offer to buy a chicken waterer from a lady who buys ten of them, and she takes me up on it. Then we make another trip to the van with our loot.
     It’s lunch time and Caroline springs for hot dogs and a slice of cake. Then we decide we’ve had enough and wedge ourselves into the van in between all our bargains. The van lumbers home and when I unpack it, I discover my chicken waterer won’t hold water. Oh well. Auctions are really about risks and treasures and catching up with old friends. It’s been a successful day.

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm. This city girl has too much stuff, and I got tired even thinking about all the stuff you hauled to your van. Wanna come clean out my house? I'll give you some great bargains on bins full of Yakama roof rack parts, old bike inner tubes, a sail for a sailboard we got rid of 15 years ago, a stand for a hammock, a box of video tapes, an entire foot locker full of old USAF flight boot, yadda yadda. Nothing as useful as a chicken coop, though.


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