Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Buyer 178 Strikes Local Gold

“You do not need anything. Anything! What you buy today, your kids will have to sell at an auction in 50 years. This stuff has been in a closet for 40 years. You. Do. Not. Need. Anything. Anything!” 

I gave myself a pep talk on repeat as I walked down the long farm lane, lined with cars and trucks from multiple states. A farm estate auction was taking place today, and there is just something about rummaging through other people’s junk that some people find irresistible. I’m one of those people. 


A favorite holiday tradition growing up was when we would drive down this same long farm lane and deliver a fruit basket with a beautiful bow to the three siblings that lived in at the homestead: Susie, Kermit, and Dude. To me, they were ages 145, 185, and 175, respectively, but you would really get them out of their chairs when company arrived. Especially company with fresh fruit. They always ushered us to the living room with great enthusiasm.


We’d sit in their dimly lit living room and visit for quite a while. Susie did most of the talking, Dude would chime in every so often, laughing without any teeth and Kermit said maybe 10 words during the duration of the conversation. Kermit was quiet and gentle. Sitting in their living room was like stepping back in time; the d├ęcor hadn’t changed in decades and aged family heirlooms hung on the walls. 


Over the years I read the obituaries of Susie, Kermit, and Dude, so when I saw their farm auction advertised, I didn’t want to miss the event. 


It drew a crowd.


Much like the funeral home, farm auctions are a surefire way to see neighbors you haven’t visited in some time, old classmates, and extended family members. At this particular event, I was able to ask a local farmer why I saw smoke at his place recently, visit with several co-op customers and rub elbows with a lot of very ordinary people. 

My kind of people.   


I got a bidder number (obviously my repeated self-pep talk didn’t work) and walked around the interior of the home, only curious to see if it was as I remember. Not a thing had changed. The house was cleaned out greatly and every piece of furniture was marked with a lot number, but it still smelled exactly as I recall. Isn’t it amazing how a smell can take you to a place and time? 


Countless salt-n-pepper shakers, feed pans, atlases, glassware, quilts, dressers, gas cans…the amount of stuff up for grabs was astonishing. Unless it has a connection to our family or Shorthorn or Angus cattle, I can usually pass over things pretty quickly. 


Then I spotted a box labeled “Scrapbooks.” I reached in my back pocket to ensure I still had my bidder number. 


There is something about other people’s stories that completely intrigues me. I leafed through a few of the tattered books and knew I’d found a goldmine for historians (or neighborhood snoops). Someone in the family had cut out hundreds of newspaper articles from the 1940s-1960s and carefully mounted them in this pile of books. They’d also kept every birthday/graduation/Christmas card over the years. What a treat for someone who once dreamt of working for Hallmark. 


Like any auction enthusiast, I stayed close to the treasure I’d found and patiently waited as they sold dated equipment manuals and jewelry before reaching my find. 


I’ll half-embarrassingly admit that I spent $40 on that box of old scrapbooks from Susie, Dude, and Kermit. 

But now I have months’ worth of reading ahead of me, seeking familiar names, old faces and stories left only to be told again if the right person stumbles upon them. 


“What that?” Cyrus asked as I carried them in the house the other evening. 


“Mommy storybooks,” I tried to explain by simplifying. 


Caroline came over and studied them, opening one to explore. 


“They smell dead,” she remarked. 


Who is raising these children?