Of all the blessings I’ve had this year, one of the greatest gifts was spending a couple of hours with my brother-in-law at an Amish horse auction. While the rest of the family headed to the apple orchards for fresh cider and warm donuts, Wayne and I headed to the county fairgrounds in my rural Wisconsin hometown.
We slid onto the cold, metal bleachers on this unseasonably cool late September day. I shoved my hands deep into the pockets of my one-shade-away-from-gawdy green jacket, and took a quick look around me. Clearly, I looked a bit out of place amongst the navy-clad Amish men that filled the unheated arena. My brother-in-law’s beard helped him fit in.
As each horse was led into the ring for their moment of show and tell, the auctioneer gave a brief description. These were all buggy-pulling horses, so we heard a lot of “Buggy broke. Can work as a single or double,” “Takes kids to school,” and “Traffic safe.” (See more descriptors below.) Young men named Uriah and Eli led their geldings and mares with pride and didn’t let their faces show either pride or disappointment with the sale price.
As I sat there eyeing the bidders as they nodded or waved their hats or scratched their beards, I was wrapped in a cloak of memories as warm as a wool coat. My mother and I loved to go to household auctions in the 70’s, and most of my first apartment, (especially the kitchen) was furnished with items purchased like this. I can still recall paying a crazy-high amount for my first ironing board because I’d gotten a bit swept up in the bidding.
Of course, this was long before there were rummage sales every weekend, or even estate sales. This was an era and place when a family laid out the contents of grandma’s house on tables spread over the lawn, and a circle formed as the auctioneer stepped onto a ladder and started the bidding.
My mother and I made a game of it. We’d confer on what we wanted, agree on a maximum price, and place ourselves across from each other so we could scope out the opposing bidders. Would they stay with the item and bid high, or bow out soon? Once, the auctioneer (who knew us) stopped the bidding to tell us we were the only two bidders left, and wondered if we really just wanted to drive the price up. We’d gotten our signals crossed, and it was a good laugh for everyone. This was mother-daughter fun for us, and to this day, I absolutely love auctions.
I have to confess, at the horse auction, I did a mental inventory of my nieces and nephews, trying to figure out who might like a horse. I was itching to bid, but managed to keep my hands in my pockets. Of course, I wasn’t buying a horse. The memories were enough.
Earlier this fall, I overheard my ninety-year old neighbor reminiscing with one of his friends. “We’re lucky we have such good memories.”
As I sat at that horse auction on that gray, cold, Friday, I felt a lump in my throat, and thought the same thing. How thankful I am to have such fun and unique memories.
Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving and hoping you have memories you are grateful for.
These were taken from the program listing the horse up for auction. Frankly, I feel I’m part horse!
“Not 100% sound, all trot, high strung, sometimes has a sticky starter.” (I don’t even want to know what a sticky starter is.)
“Feet get sore from running on hard surfaces.” (Whose don’t?)
“Sound, mostly traffic safe, looks at odd things along the road. Women can drive.” (Hey, I like to look at odd things along the road as well!)