There used to be several farm sales a year right here in my county. Now there are very few, if any, in a year's time. Most of the small and medium-sized operators have already sold out. Fewer farm sale is a sign of the times. The equipment is bigger, but it's concentrated in fewer hands and turns over less often.
Last Saturday, though, I attended the Benton Central FFA Farm Consignment Auction near Fowler, Ind. With a sprawling high school parking lot covered with equipment, no furniture allowed, four auction rings working from early morning until late afternoon, it's a true farm sale.
OK, some of the items offered for sale had seen better days. And some routinely reappear every year or two I'm told. Someone thinks it's a bargain, decides they don't need it after all, and bring it back the next year. The FFA chapter makes money both times. Even the concessions for this auction, with about 1,000 registered bidders, bring in thousands. The sale has been held every year for more than 35 years.
I rode along with Doug Abney, a farmer who also works off the farm, but who raises lots of hay and cattle, and his fifth-grade son, Dougie. For Dougie, it was go with Dad to a farm auction or spend the entire morning watching Mom and big sis get hair cuts with all the trimmings at a beauty salon. Even a fifth-grader didn't need help making that choice!
Every sale has its moments. My friend Doug found himself in the middle of one of the funniest. There was a double row of livestock items, gates, fences, chutes, tanks, you name it, that literally covered tow football fields in length. One auctioneer truck went down one side, another down the other. Doug was after some gates and fence posts and the like. I was standing, watching the action, while he was done checking on something they would get to soon, Then he walked back up to the sales area just in time, or in this case, just at the wrong time.
In amongst the gates and tanks was this odd, antique, wooden looking thing with two side-by-side pulleys, narrow belts, and a gob of power takeoff universal joints tied to it (which you can see at the left). Before the auction truck got there, the game of the morning was trying to figure out what it was. One friend of mine heard someone say it was a speed jack.
"What's that?" I asked.
"How should I know," he joked, walking off. Oh well, what do you expect from an ag teacher? Mr. Allyn teaches at nearby South Newton High School. For the student's sake, I know for a fact he knows a whole lot more about soils and crops and such than antique what-cha-ma-call-its.
The auction truck was in front of a pile of gates. I heard the auctioneer start taking bids on the mystery item. Someone started it at a couple bucks. Someone else actually bid. Doug got up there just in time to hear the auctioneer call for an $8 bid. Seeing the ring man with his cane resting on the gates, he figured they were selling choice gate.
"Sure, I'll give $8," he said.
Then he saw the terror in my eyes. Before I could explain, the auctioneer knocked the wooden whatever-it-is off to Doug. "Now we'll sell gates," he said.
Doug muttered 'oops.' Being a good sport, he let it ride, becoming the proud owner of something no one to this day still knows what it is. Oh, someone out there knows, but we haven't figured it out yet. I had the distinct pleasure of loading it in Doug's truck while he paid his bill.
"Oh well, it was a donation for the FFA," he says. Anything selling under $10 was a pure donation. "There's a couple of steel rods good for something, and surely I can find some use for those universal joints.
"If nothing else, I'll tell my wife I bought it to set in front of our barn office as an antique."
Good luck with that one, Doug!