Friday, August 03, 2007

Auction antics

By Kevin Duling

There’s nothing quite like a good auction for used farm and ranch equipment. These auctions are known to bring farmers and ranchers together from across state and county lines. “Just where in the world did those folks come from?” is a phrase commonly used when attending such an auction.

Realizing there is an art to picking up great “deals” at an auction is something I became aware of just out of college. Having a roommate who talked his sweet grandmother into giving him her prized moped so he could “get around the farm easier”, then selling it one week later for $100 made it clear to me what kind of people might have to be dealt with at auctions.

After attending a few auctions, I understand clearly that an auctioneer’s job is to take a big piece of junk and market it in a way that you just can’t live without it. Since I am disciplined on my auction homework, I know I will never be talked into buying a big piece of junk.

While listening to an auctioneer tell how this pile of rusted metal pipe was used to save lives during World War II and how the price of scrap steel would surely be at least $6 per pound by next spring, I noticed three men sitting on the hitches of some tillage equipment. I asked my roommate why these men were sitting like that. He stated that people will sit on the equipment they intend to purchase, therefore intimidating anyone else from bidding on it.

I was curious how it could be considered intimidating to see a one-toothed man with a shirt sleeve missing sitting on an old springtooth with a flat tire. I guess I’ve been scared of lesser things. Perhaps I can use this trick just in case I find something I want to purchase someday.

I remember a farm equipment auction that was very close to my home. I was excited about it because I knew the equipment. I live in a very remote area where most buyers would not want to travel.

On the day of the auction it was 35 degrees with a very soaking rain/snow mix. This sale had the marks of being an epic auction because no one with a sane mind would stand out in that weather.

Perhaps great minds think alike. Apparently every farmer and rancher in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho realized this could be an opportune auction and standing out in the 35 degree sleet was well worth the chance at getting a “deal”.

After spending months doing homework on buying things at auctions, I figured this was the one to try my luck. I found it slightly unpleasant trying to sit on a high-lift jack for 4 hours. I remember thinking I heard the auctioneer talking about how the ear tags in a certain box of “stuff” being auctioned were the ear tags used on the cattle in the legendary John Wayne film “Big Jake”, but his voice was muffled due to my uncontrollable shivering.

On the way home my roommate asked me if I had picked up any good deals. I was happy to announce that I had bought a slightly used high-lift jack for only $220. Apparently the other bidders found me fairly intimidating. I told him I wanted to buy those special ear tags, but they were priced way too high, even if they had been used in a Hollywood movie.

After attending auctions off and on for the last 10 years I’ve learned some valuable lessons. Always put a limit on your spending, never trust a man who would sell his grandmother’s moped, and never, ever buy a steam cleaner that has the words “run good” written on the side of it.

Kevin Duling is a wheat farmer and freelance writer from Maupin, Ore. Kevin’s stories will be posted every Friday on the Capital Press Blog. Comments are welcomed at

Copyright, August 2007

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I couldn't have said it better myself! You know how to touch home when relating to living in the country. Keep up the great work.

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