Hey Trader Mac

Hey Trader Mac,
I remember my first auction. Up in the hills north of Council Bluffs where I bought incidentally an end gate seeder. Dad and I went to the sale. We had just purchased an aluminum scoop shovel at the Minden hardware store for around $35. They were selling one for only a few bucks off of the flatbed full of shop stuff at this really old timer’s farm sale. If you can call them mountains farms. I asked Dad if we should buy another one cheap and he said, “I prefer to buy hand tools new.” I’ve never figured that one out. When they came to the seeder he nudged me in the shoulder and said, “Your up. You’d better get in there.” That’s the first time I remember that rush. (You never forget your first) That’s the last sale he went to with me. Willy and I attended the rest until we were tooled up. The rush was something I thought would fade after a few auctions. It never has.

Years later Dad sent me to buy a farm for him when he was staying down in Texas for the winters. You would think the effect would be quantitatively stronger given he never told me what to pay. It was. I wasn’t going to even bid since it was damn near where I thought he would pass on the price. The auctioneer (whom I suspect Dad had talked to) wasn’t able to get any more bids and he turned to me and said, “Well Phil, are we going to let them have it for that?” I was flabbergasted. I didn’t know what to say. It was a very small crowd and I didn’t know either of the two gentlemen that were bidding. I didn’t know what to do so I bid. One of the other men bid. So I bid again. The auctioneer cried a while but the man bid again. Now Dad may not of told me what to bid directly but he kind of let me know in a code. The only problem was this other gentleman was sitting on the bid that I thought was the upper limit according to dad’s code. The ball was in my court and everyone was looking at me. I closed my eyes, I hung my head, I bid ten dollars an acre more just in case Dad wanted it for “around that price”. I couldn’t face Dad if the farm went to someone else at Dad’s price.

Talk about a rush! That one was about a half million dollar rush. The most I had ever bid for anything. Maybe the most I ever will. That bid was the one that took it. It turns out I wasn’t the only one bidding for their dad. The only difference was that man’s dad had given him a solid upper limit and Dad had only said, “Whatever it brings you’re the one who will be paying for it. The rent is going to be a 4% return on my money. How much rent are you paying for Vic’s?” (That was the code) I quickly went home and gave Dad a call and told him that “the lightning had struck” and he now owned another farm. When I told him the price he seemed to chuckle a little. I asked him if that was alright he said it was and that he and Mom had better get packed and headed back up to Iowa.

I hadn’t slept for the three weeks since he had told me what he wanted me to do. I didn’t sleep for a few more weeks until he had convinced me that I hadn’t bankrupted him. He told me later that I was the first son he had sent to buy a farm that hadn’t bought it out from under him. Not to change the subject but this reply is getting too long to simply hide it “under the fold” in a comments section. I’ll go ahead and post it here as a reply but I’m also going to make it a new post where everybody can see it. Thanks for jarring (Or is it unjarring) my memory. When I spoke of the rush on that post (I’ll have to go back to find out which one) I had forgotten when this all started. Not to mention that six week “rush” from bidding for Dad. Now when I’m senile I can come back here and remember it again. If I remember where this is. Or who I am.

If I see you there and see you then, and you recognize me, tell me who the hell I am.



Not So Simple Division

I went to a farm sale yesterday. It’s not something I’m prone to do since there’s usually a large crowd of people. I’m not fond of crowds unless it’s an anonymous crowd of unknown folks. Where I feel invisible. Being a local farmer for over thirty years and growing up in this area being anonymous is pretty much out of the question. Which may explain why I’m usually off buying machinery at auctions that are usually sixty miles away or more. That and the fact what I want is usually at least that far away. This particular local sale had an old IH wagon end gate seeder. Someone had converted it from a wagon end gate seeder that was driven from the wagon’s rear left wheel to a three point seeder that drove off of the tractor’s PTO (power take off) via a V belt and pulleys. It had a larger five plus bushel oats hopper added above the original one bushel hopper and an old cream can strapped to the back of the additional hopper above the original grass seed hopper with a tube feeding out of the bottom of the cream can into the top of the grass seed hopper.

The reason I wanted this old relic was for one it was old and ugly and scrappy enough that I felt it would be sold for five or ten bucks. For another it was beat up and bent up and looked like it no longer worked so I’d be bidding against an iron salvage type individual. I wasn’t going to use it for it’s current purpose I was going to re purpose it to meter cover crop oats through the larger hoppers and maybe tillage radishes through the grass seeder. Depending on how large radish seeds are, as I’ve never seen any. Even though I had some flown on with a crop duster plane over the standing corn last summer along with rye grass. I want to sow the cover crops with the bean straw as it comes out the back of the combine this fall. Save the plane money. Yep I’m not only a no tiller now I’m officially a cover cropper. Even though the sale bill simply listed it as a three point seeder like it was still functioning I thought it was ugly enough to steer most folks away at first sight.

The sale bill also mentioned that a change in the farming operation was the reason for the sale. The sale was pretty well attended for a rainy day even though the change in operation turned out to be a divorce. I guess everyone’s drawn to a wreck. When I had a chance to ask the farmer having the sale where the parts combine was that they’d listed on the sale bill he said,” Ask my lawyer or my son, they hauled it to the scrap yard without even asking me.” When I looked puzzled he said, “We’re settling up a divorce and the sale is to establish the prices we will use to achieve a fair settlement. It’s one hell of a way to do it as far as I’m concerned.” I consoled him for his loss with a pat on the back and an encouraging word of agreement and went to the seeder I wanted to buy and waited for the crowd to approach with the auctioneers.

There’s something about an auction. If I’m there to simply hang out it’s no biggie. If I am there to buy something (which is usually the only time I go) it’s a different story. As soon as the crowd moves in and the auctioneers start to cry out the bids on my particular coveting my heart starts racing and my palms get sweaty. I’m so high by the time I start to bid that my ears are usually ringing and the crowd has disappeared except for the crier and the other buyer in a certain unexplainable tunnel like vision that settles in. Fortunately I set a top price I won’t go over before the bidding and this “possession” settles in and I’m not totally swept away by the moment. If the reader has never participated in an auction I highly recommend it. If one sets their cut off price low enough it’s the cheapest intoxication ever achieved.

Much like yesterday turned out for me. As the auctioneers approached with the ensuing crowd I jumped out of the truck we had driven damn near up to the seeder to wait in out of the rain and stood by my prey. The auctioneer started crying at fifty bucks, my cut off price. He wasn’t able to get a bid so he quickly dropped the bid to ten dollars. Now we’re talking. But before I got my arm in the air three guys had already run it back up to the starting point at fifty bucks. I wasn’t able to get that bid either since it quickly went to seventy five, then one hundred. By the time the sold cry came out the price for this pile of scrap iron had reached one hundred fifty US dollars. Unbelievable. Was it the cream can?  Where’s Farm Journal’s Machinery Pete? This has to be a record price. Fortunately the roach coach was selling maid rights for three dollars so I had two and we went home empty handed but full stomached. And still nearly full pocketed.

If it’s an auction I just may …….

See you there, see you then.