Another Reminder Not to Judge a Book By Its Cover

Hoosier Perspectives

I took a chance loaning a tool to a stranger.

Published on: January 9, 2012

My wife, Carla, and I ventured into Amish country in southern Indiana near Montgomery recently. There are many stories worth telling from that trip. The one that stands out the most, however, was an incident and conversation I had standing in line at an auction barn waiting to pay for something I purchased.

Dinky's Auction Barn will be the subject for another day. At least seven rings were up and going at one time, selling everything from toy tractors to old sofas to lumber to boxes of used bed clothes to feeder pigs. You name it, they sell it. I decided to check out half way through the sale, and was about the 10th person in one of 10 lines checking out. I love auctions, but this one was almost too much for me. It's an auction on steroids. And it happens every Friday night in this quiet Amish community.

Standing in line in front of me was an older gentleman who didn't look a day over 70. He later claimed he was 82. Be that as it may, we struck up a conversation. Then another man came in from outside. It was raining lightly and he wanted to cover up something he had purchased with plastic. He knew the gentleman next to me.

Now this guy was dressed in old jeans, a denim jacket and a tee-shirt. He wore a beard that wasn't the best-kept. He asked the man he knew, the man I had talked to, for a pocket knife. When he said he didn't have one and they chatted, I thought what to heck. I had my Winchester pocket knife with me. I use it coaching soils judging, which means it spends a fair amount of time stuck in soil profiles in soil pits. So it's not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but it will cut.

I pulled it out and handed it to the man from outside. He smiled and said he'd be right back. Hey, it was just after Christmas- I was being a good Samaritan. I figured getting my knife back was a 50-50 proposition.

"Will I ever see that knife again?" I asked my companion in line, who knew the man better than I suspected. He smiled and chuckled.

"Son, you will see it again. And you can say you loaned your knife to a millionaire. He's been lucky in life, and he's got plenty of money."

"Wow- he sure doesn't look like it, and what's he doing here?" I stammered

"Oh, he just likes to buy stuff- it's a hobby," my new friend answered.

Sure enough, in a few minutes, the man returned, and handed me the knife.

"Hey, I wouldn't get in a fight downtown with that knife," he quipped. "It was kind of dull, but I chewed across the plastic. Much obliged."

And he left. And I just learned a lesson. Don't judge someone by what they look like or how they act. What you see may not be what you get.