If ever the term “local color” finds a definition it is surely at a farm sale, a farm auction sale, that is. What gives farm auctions the color? About everything.
The farmers start showing up, a motley-looking bunch. Most are still in their “barn clothes”. Overalls, leather work boots, Carhaart jacket and maybe a John Deere cap that hasn’t been washed any time in the near past.
They step out of their pick-ups that have varied states of rust beginning to pucker at the bottom of their beds. Yes, there’s still an outstanding bank note on the beast, but add that one to the three others that were necessary to put the combine in the wheat fields, the discbine in the alfalfa and that spanking clean New Holland tractor that’s attracting a ton of attention this morning in one of the equipment lines.
Of course, some of these farmers chew tobacco, some puff on a cob-ful of Borkum Riff. Another is just happy to talk farmin’ with an old timer who he hasn’t seen for years. Most of such banter focuses on how prices suck for whatever crop they have in the ground. Better days are coming, they assure each other, but none of them are sure when . A wry smile only indicates the tenuous nature of their business.
Maybe it’s only the real estate that’s being sold today or maybe the ground isn’t for sale, rather hundreds of pieces of equipment that will be in new sheds by day’s end. They are all arranged in rows on the ground. The auctioneer will do his chant in front of each piece until his hammer strikes the block. “SOLD”
If you’ve never farmed yourself , but happen to be here today, don’t feel badly if you don’t have half a clue what most of this stuff is. If you have never used it, then you can’t possibly be expected to know what that whirly gig is used for. Just think of it as part of the local color !
There is a cross current at play here today. A farmer, maybe your neighbor, isn’t just liquidating. He’s selling his all. In ways he’s selling his soul. 27 years of knuckle-busting toil are represented by these lines of equipment strewn out on the ground today. It is a profoundly emotional day for him and his family.
I’ll quote the lyrics from a bluegrass tune by the James King Band. A line from THIRTY YEARS of FARMING laments, “Oh my Daddy stopped talkin’ the day the farm was auctioned. There was nothing left to say.”
As a teenager, the auction at our farm was more like a festival. Dad only sold the dairy cattle and the milking equipment . In a seeming blink of the eye, a huge and every day burden was lifted from the whole family. No,I couldn’t stop talking about that. There was plenty left to say!