Amy Discovers Auctions

We moved to Pennsylvania in 1995. One of the things that exist here, that we did not have in North Carolina, where we used to live, are “Mud Sales”. No, this is not an event where one buys mud. These are auctions that are scheduled every Saturday, starting in February and continuing until April. Every volunteer fire department in the area has one, and they coordinate the dates. These are used to raise funds, and have turned into large events. People come from all over for these things. I am not a huge fan, as I do not like to wait all day for that one item I have to have. Nevertheless I do go occasionally, though I must say that I prefer industrial type auctions, where there is a lot of cool equipment and test gear to look at.

It also brings to mind a pet peeve of mine – why are taxes here so high, yet we have to pay a private fee to both the local fire company, and the ambulance service?? And then they have to have these fund raising auctions as well??  Geez we do not even have a local police department. And we have to pay an outrageous fee for sewer service. And when these local idiots did their community planning I guess the notion of clean drinking water eluded them, as everyone is on their own for water. They dug up all the streets to put in sewer lines, and did not bother with fresh water.

A lot of people here still use cisterns!!!!! (Cisterns are something out of history, and until I moved here would never have dreamed of encountering them. They are basically gigantic storage tanks for water, normally underground. Our house has two with a combined capacity of about 8000 gallons.) The house we ended up buying here had a cistern as the only source of water. There were rain catchers from all the gutters that emptied into it. We had to close those off, and purchase water by the tanker load for several years until we could get a well drilled. Amazing.  I felt like I had moved backwards in time about a hundred years. It is interesting to note that a tiny backwater county in the sandy plains of eastern North Carolina has a better civic infrastructure than a populous county in Central Pennsylvania.

Anyway, my big mistake (regarding auctions, that is) was taking Amy to one shortly after we moved here.

Keep in mind that I was desperately trying to get her used to living almost 600 miles away from “home”, and that we were experiencing the worst winter in recorded history, with such fun highlights as a 36 inch snowfall in 24 hours. I was really struggling to get her to adjust to our new home.


It was her first auction experience, and she was quite intimidated. We did find a very good bargain on a new oak bed frame, though. Little did I realize what I had created. I learned later that she went to a few other auctions that season on her own. This I found out later, was encouraged by our Amish neighbors, who also liked to go to auctions and yard sales…The wheels were set in motion, and I may as well have tried to stop a locomotive,

It was not until next year that the full impact of my colossal blunder became apparent. One Saturday I was dragged to one of the sales. This auction lived fully up to the “Mud Sale” name; it was wet, very muddy, and cold.  We got there and she immediately steered us to the registration area to get a bidder card. She then dragged me to the tent that had all sorts of little wooden crafts and knick-knack stuff. You know – stuff that guys could care less about, and women love. I was thinking that if I had to be there, at least let me go look at the tools. Well, I was so totally out-maneuvered  that I had no clue what she had in mind until it was too late. In retrospect, she probably would have been quite happy for me to wander off and look at tools.

She finds a place to perch near the back. She was way too short to see, so she  bids on, and buys a stool to stand on. At 5 feet tall, she needed some way to  see the auctioneer (I would have preferred that she not be able to see him at all, and even more importantly that he not be able to see her). She gets all comfy, and then tells me she is thirsty. I fight my way through wall-to-wall people to the concession stand and purchase a glass of ice tea. Then I fight my way back. I present her with the tea, while simultaneously eyeing the pile of stuff at her feet. I am astounded. And getting scared. Had I been away that long?? How much money is that pile worth? Is she done yet? Why is she buying all this stuff?

She takes a look at the tea, and coolly informs me that she wanted coffee, could I please go get her some. She evades my questions about all this stuff. So with a considerable amount of trepidation, I go and battle the crowds again in search of coffee.

When I return for the second time, I saw that she had moved atop a hay wagon, and the pile of stuff had gotten a lot larger. In fact it looked like a small mountain. I was getting a gnawing panicky feeling. I asked her how much money I was looking at here, and she answered innocently, “Not too much.” Now I am a guy, and further, I deal with technical issues a lot. I like facts, and concrete information, and I was not getting any. Alarm bells are going off in the back of my mind.

I noticed, too, that her demeanor had changed. She was most definitely not the timid auction neophyte anymore. She looked a lot more shrewd and calculating than I had ever imagined possible. (Not that she is the least bit dumb, on the contrary, she is a smart girl, but this was different). A new persona was emerging before my eyes. I also notice the auctioneer seems to be directing an inordinate amount of attention to her.

Great, they will be on a first name basis before long.

GOOD GRIEF, they ARE  calling her by name now!!!!!!!

Then I figure out that she actually knows these auctioneers. It is a conspiracy!!!!

Then, my eldest son tells me he is bored and would like to go home. (His mom probably got him to do this to get rid of me, I figure). My sentiments exactly, except I needed for her to come home too. I caved in and took him home. I was gone for perhaps 30 or 40 minutes. I was dreading what I would find upon my return. Could I report my bidder card stolen, I wonder. I conclude that would likely not work, since she can prove she is my wife. And there were too many witnesses that knew her and saw her in this buying frenzy. Sigh.

As I had feared, the mountain of stuff had grown to truly titanic proportions. A veritable Mt. Everest of hand-made oak knick-knacks.  I was numb.

Fortunately the auction was nearly over. Before long she hands me the bidder card, and tells me to pay the bill. I just love it when that happens. It really lets me know what my place is. Sigh.

I then have to go home to get our utility trailer, as there is no way all this stuff will fit, even in her huge truck. (That would be the gas guzzling behemoth of a Suburban).

She finally tells me what this is all about. Mind you, by now I am in shock, cold, and tired, and exasperated. Our living room is literally impassable with all the stuff piled everywhere. I am thinking that she has gone off the deep end.

She has a plan, she tells me. That really alleviated my worries. Right. A plan. Great, I think.

She intends to haul all this stuff to the next auction and sell it. By some magical means she has somehow determined that this particular auction fetches higher prices, as it is a much larger and more popular one. There she will resell items at a tidy profit. I am dubious.

She did in fact do this. A week or so later she hauled some of this stuff to another auction and re-sold it.  She made money on the items she sold (sort of). However, there were quite a few that turned out to be “too pretty to sell”. Therein lies the disagreement on the actual profitability of this little adventure. From a cash standpoint we lost money, however if you use an accounting method that values all this stuff as “inventory”, we did make money. However the profit is tied up in the oak knick-knacks.  When the dust cleared, I figured that we lost $10 cash on the whole escapade. And I gained a few grey hairs. Of course, I have given her plenty of those as well.

Amy has decided to add her version to this story. A rebuttal of sorts.

She bought a stepstool to stand on at the auction. (I had forgotten this little detail, and added it after she reminded me). Subsequently she always took something with her. Usually she used a large Amish made  wagon. It had brakes, so it was great for standing on and hauling her newly acquired treasures.

She says that although she did buy a “few” things, she was trying to “help” her auctioneer friends run up the price, and sometimes it backfired and she ended up with all this extra stuff.  <Auctioneer friends ?!?!?>

She denies that the stuff filled the living room. I did not take a picture, so I guess that is that.

She is also telling me that I am making her sound really bad and would I like to sleep on the couch. Wow. I guess I am done for now.

Footnote – The story is far from over. This took place a number of years ago, and since then there have been up and down years as far as auction escapades go. There is one other very memorable one though……


Stephan Hoffman, 2004

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