eldest son's last auction
The first item on the block was a clock. Just a plain, round, school wall clock. Before grandpa could even start bidding, one of the spotters knocked a guitar onto the floor.
"If we can keep it in one piece," grandpa added, as he started his bidding cadence.
It was a portent of things to come.
When the describing the condition of another item, the auctioneer said it was "as good as a three-dollar bill."
Without a pause or trace of irony in his voice.
A Hull vase went for only $15. Suspect she'll get more for it on eBay.
A vintage, functional lava lamp went for only $2.50. And they had to beg for that. Likewise for a globe which, as they said, still had the USSR on it.
A large ceramic bowl with the words "Dad's Ice Cream" was described as "a commode for a midget."
Along about this time a large dog wandered in through the open garage doors, happily greeting everyone in the front row. And getting a happy welcome from grandpa, with the mic. The new spotter, standing next to eldest son, looked pleadingly towards the back of the room, and asked, quietly and with embarrassment, "Mom?"
But it wasn't Mom who came forward to grab the dog by the collar and lead it out. It was Dad.
Who also happens to be the county judge.
Later, he would spend close to ten bucks for a used folding lawn chair that you could get new at Wal-Mart for less.
So he could sit in that doorway with the dog.
An antique hurricane lamp went for $45, and an equally old coal oil lamp went for $32.50. Which pleased the wife, since she has identical ones in the living room.
'Course, we still use hers whenever the power goes out...
As they set the coal oil lamp on the block, the chimney fell off. And Jay, rarely fleet of fingers, caught it midair and saved the sale.
"We hire only the best," claimed grandpa.
A lot of three old framed colorized photos came up. In describing them to his father, the auctioneer explained "This one's Lake Marie... and those two aren't."
And that was all the description we got.
A pair of mass produced plastic pronghorn and wolf statues went for $32.50.
I don't know why. I guess all it takes is two people who want the same thing.
Not one to be technologically adept, grandpa described the flat panel monitor of the computer they sold as "narrow screen". The wife and half the room corrected him in chorus.
The TV/VCR combo (no, it's not HD or digitally compatible) finally went for $10. "God, I'm glad you came," was grandpa's relieved reply after shouting "Sold!". "Number 75. Remember that number," he told his son.
It appeared they were selling the remains of someone's cabin, with all-Western decor, from the paintings to the lamps to the tables to the rugs. And a man's cabin, to boot. All the accessories you'd expect in a bachelor's pad. Like a lava lamp. And Coors pool table lights, and a Pabst wall clock.
And a Coors bar light. With interchangeable transparencies. The auctioneer let us see the bottom transparency for only the briefest second.
A gorgeous brunette in a tight, tight Coors swimsuit. If they'd sold her separately, I'da bid. And well. The auctioneer said only "That'll bring Dad home at night."
He had to prompt his dad to start the bidding. "We'll start as soon as these gals stop giggling," grandpa answered, pointing to three women in the third row.
Three whiskey decanters came up. Described as a duck, a pheasant, and "one of these things, too." A young spotter leaned in to whisper it was "R2D2".
"R2D2!" A little louder this time. Still no recognition from the auctioneer.
"Star Wars!" the spotter said loudly.
"Watch it, Gary!" I heard the wife mutter aloud. But the auctioneer didn't hear her, and stepped away from the object brushing his leg.
It was an antique wooden-framed mirror, leaning against the table behind him. The kind of mirror with fine wood framing around the edges of the mirror.
And it fell. Flat on its face, loudly, on the concrete floor.
And did NOT break.
"That's what happens when you live a good, clean life," the auctioneer bragged.
And back to work they went. Ignoring the snickers.
A can of antique Pennzoil wheel lubricant went for only $5. They thought it should have been more.
R. W. Taedter? Your old trunk sold for just $20.
Did I ever mention the trunk they had to sell unopened at another auction, since they did not have a key? And the jokes about not coming back if "you find Jimmy Hoffa" in there? Well, eldest son told us the buyer came back.
It was full of old, antique porn.
The buyer was a minister.
The new spotter, the judge's son, was actually here to try out his new auctioneering skills. Freshly graduated from auctioneering school in Missouri. They gave him a couple times at the mike. Better than most beginners, but he was incredibly tense, and too fast. Both to follow, and to drop his asking price. Now, I'm not saying he was the problem, but when he was spotting, they had probably two to three times as many sales as normal where they ended up with two winning bidders.
A case of too many cooks, you know.
One of those was over a pair of roller blades. A wag in the crowd suggested letting each bidder "have one skate".
The back of the room quickly fills with bidders, so it isn't long before anyone wanting in or out from the right side of the room has to walk right in front of the block.
Including a young mother with her newborn. Grandpa stopped the bidding to declare "Awww, isn't that a precious thing."
The mother leaned in to whisper to him. And then he loudly announced "And she's not for sale!"
The grandmother later claimed someone in the back offered $65 for her granddaughter.
Along about this time, grandpa looked at the wooden mirror, still propped against the table up front, and told his son, "I wish you'd sell that mirror. It worries me." So, a couple items later, they put the mirror up.
"Now here's one tough mirror," grandpa started off.
It was when some Black Hills gold came up that grandpa went on a tangent, pondering how anyone can sell new Black Hills gold when the only gold mine in the Black Hills that produced that multi-colored metal closed years ago.
When he was done, the auctioneer asked "Is that your last story?"
"No, I'm just warming up," was the reply.
"That's what I'm afraid of..."
Hey, Margaret... one of your hand-carved antler cribbage boards sold for $15. Is that a good price?
A lot of five matching pictures came up, and were passed out amongst the spotters to hold up. The auctioneer described them as "five elk pictures."
Hearing the hooting from the crowd, he leaned forward and confessed, "One of them might be a black bear."
The hooting continued.
"And a moose."
A modern art piece came up. A flat piece of metal cut into the silhouette of a bull elk, but carved inside with smaller scenes of elk, trees and mountains. All enamelized in a decoupage of abstract red, green and blue earthern tones.
Pretty, but not that pretty. It started around $25, and climbed in increments of $5. Over $100. Over $200. The bidders a young man with his wife standing in the back ("oil field money" someone muttered), and an old, hunched woman in the front row. Her daughter shouting the needed bid amounts into the woman's left ear. Who would then make the slightest, barely perceptible nod, her eyes never flinching off the piece on the block.
The crowd was absolutely quiet after the bidding went over $200. The man's bids coming fast and immediate, the woman's always delayed by the daughter's relay. When the rig worker hit $295, I heard the daughter announce into the woman's ear "Three hundred dollars. That's a lot of money, Mom."
And the grey-haired woman finally blinked. And did not nod.
The crowd applauded, but it was polite applause, not enthusiastic.
You could tell we were not rooting for the winner.
The lacquer elk silhouette lamp the wife was waiting on because it reminded her so much of the lamps in the rooms at the Old Faithful Inn?
Apparently my collection of Time/Life Western books is worth about $110.
A stack of old, old records, including Al Jolson ("You remember Al Jolson, don't you?" asked the auctioneer) went for just $55.
The two trays of laboratory glassware and pestles went for $15. Lots of snickering about what those might be used for.
But it was the only thing
Flasks are cool. And I'm looking forward to wafting Harp Lager from a 500ml Pyrex flask.
If you care about firearms, as half the crowd apparently did since they left when the guns were sold, they were:
Remington shotgun - $160.
Ruger 7mm mag - $390.
Winchester .270 - $390.
A "Visible loader Stevens .22", apparently a rare, old rifle, went for $470 to one of the spotters. Who was told, "That gun's older than you."
A Ruger 10-22 rotary clip semi-auto .22 - $240.
A Model B High Standard 1938 to 1942 automatic pistol - $390.
And a new Russian Nigant Model 1895 military pistol - $190.
They had a bunch of jewelry, mostly rings, with real precious stones. We, and most the women, took a peek when most the men went outside for the auctioning of the ATVs. A dark, pretty garnet. And good, dark green emerald. The rubies were pale and unimpressive. But all the rings were tiny, the wife barely able to get them on her pinky.
Three of us husbands were standing back, watching a half-dozen women gathered around the table like crows on roadkill.
"I don't know anything about jewelry," the younger man apologized. I and my friend explained to him, "There's only one thing you need to know."
"If she likes it,"
"You buy it."
Fortunately for me, the wife didn't like any of the rings. And she never saw the six-emerald bracelet.
Until much later that night, when eldest son's girlfriend, eyes alight, let us see his gift to her.
Along with the matching pendant and earrings.
(Speaking of roadkill.. should I mention the wife's first pictures with her new camera phone, taken that evening, were of...
a roadkilled dead elk. Fifteen some miles away. Kind of unnecessary, too, since I'd just been there 10 minutes before and already had pictures with a real camera. But such is the life, and choices, of a biologist's wife.)
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