Trip Back Through Time

Hoosier Perspectives

Early farming days and modern times meet on trip south.

Published on: April 4, 2011

Just getting to Carl Villwock's Farm Museum estate auction was a trip within itself. Although Carl lived at Edwardsport, to facilitate the sale, it was held at Dinky's Auction barn, an institution in the Amish country of Daviess County, located north of Montgomery. Maybe it's not in the middle of nowhere, but only the good Lord can find it without directions.

I had directions from a friend who goes there all the time since his son lives nearby, and I still had to call him twice, on a modern cell phone of course, to get there, and once to get out. But then if you've traveled form Bloomington on Indiana 45 to Crane Naval Depot, and headed on west and south, you likely know what I'm talking about.

At the auction, the old days of farming met modern technology. People stood in the back on cell phones, talking to someone at home, trying to decide whether to bid on a sign from the 1920s. Part of the auction was broadcast live over the Internet. Actually, there were two rings that were broadcast over the Internet at the same time. Yes, it was the first question the auctioneers, Aumann's Auction, Nokomois, Ill., asked when they considered holding it at the auction barn—is there Internet service in Amish country? There most certainly is! Right in the heart of Amish country—I passed several buggies on the road running south from Odon to the auction barn. Lost yet?

I knew there were 450 items catalogued to be sold on the Internet, both rings combined. What I didn't know was that there were 10 more wagonloads of 'stuff—count them, 10- plus two rows of lawn and garden-type items outdoors that were only for local, live bidding.

"Don's (Villwock) dad even forgot he had some of this stuff," one bidder told me. "I had been to the museum, and I never saw half this stuff. Don says that's because the stuff Carl didn't show much was stuffed in barns all over the place."

"Dad just picked these items up here and there once he started collecting," Don says. "He was big in the antique tractor seat club, but he also hit flea markets and other places where he could pick up anything old remotely related to farm life."

One of the older tractors even sold to an Internet bidder. Talk about old vs. new technology! The tractors sold outside. So the man running one of the Internet receivers got the bid inside, then relayed it by cell phone to one of the helpers, a spry young gal perched high atop an old tractor so the auctioneer in the truck could see her. If a bid came in, she would yell and wave her arms wildly.

That's about the biggest, most jumbled combination of old and new technology as it gets—selling an 80-year old tractor by Internet and cell phone to someone hundreds of miles away, but doing it by yelling out bids to an auctioneer, just as they've done at farm sales since the first farm sale was held.

It was quite a memorable day to say the least. Carl would have surely rather been a participant than a spectator from above. It was his kind of sale, but his presence and appreciation for days gone by was present, even as bids winged their way from all over to the heart of Amish country in split—second speed.