Saturday, 16 June 2007

Going, going.......gone

Devon is full of auctions. In a random week you could pit your wits and auction technique against the pros and hustlers for: antique furniture; crap furniture; granite adornments of massive tonnage; farm implements; cattle, sheep, lambs and other livestock; horses; jewellery; arts and crafts of all kinds; houses, farms, clumps of woodland; miscellaneous objects of every kind; and poultry and poultry paraphenalia.
You may not think that bidding for a clutch of laying eggs, a group of sorry-for-themselves goslings, or a pair of majestic Silver Appleyard ducks is much of a thrill, but you would be wrong. First there is the viewing. You push your way past the hordes of folk eyeing up the cages of squawking birds. You see a mother hen with a half dozen chicks, one perched on her back as she struts and clucks, checking all are present and correct. There are examples that just about pass the vet's muster, that you would not risk introducing to your own flock; runny nose, dull eyes, feathers lacklustre, scaly legged or just sitting dejected in a corner. You spot a fabulous cockerel - black, polished, mature, shiny-eyed, probably done his bit for the breeder and now surplus to requirements. You don't need a cockerel, but he looks at you and you decide to take him if he's going at the right price. Then there are the examples you are really keen on: the trio of Khaki Campbells, just coming up to laying age; the Cayugas, with their effervescent plumage or a set of fine comical Indian Runner Ducks that should have their own primetime cartoon show.
You decide to bid. You get your auction number from the tiny booth, and even though you've only bid twice before, they know who you are and you don't need to repeat your address. The auctioneer and his sidekick push the wheeled auctioneer's stand into position. His hand does a quick check for auction notes, handkerchief and the two guinea pigs sewn together that sit on his head and impersonate a toupee. People cluster round the cages of birds they want to bid for, the numbers of the lots scrawled on the back of their auction number. They then try to act nonchalant, and mostly fail. The auctioneer's patter clatters on, barely intelligible; you have to deliberately tune in to his wavelength and it's a lost cause if you were intending to bid on the first few lots.
Your first lot comes up, you are now tuned in, you wait til the bidding slows and raise your hand quietly. You win or you lose. Sometimes there are no or few rival bids and you get your desire for pennies; you see something others don't, or they see something you can't. At other times a simple lot goes for bigger bucks than you can fathom. Concentration is total, even though you may be about to part with nothing more than a blue beer voucher. It's over quickly, but the initial adrenalin rush is as great for a duck as for a house, although the buzz lasts for a great deal longer if property or a new throughbred showjumper is the outcome. Done. Dusted. You do not control the pace of purchase.
When you emerge from the auction shed you feel the same as when you come out of the cinema and it's still daylight; disoriented, unreal, but with an experience and a story whirling in your head. The difference is that you may well have a trio of ducks in a container in your hands. You smile at them and take them home.


Around My Kitchen Table said...

Someone I work with has Indian Runner ducks and sells their lovely blue eggs for £1 for six. I often buy half a dozen and - cunning plan - give them to my mother who than magically transforms them into wonderful cakes!

Mopsa said...

They are fab eaten in any form - MUCH better than hen's eggs in my 'umble opinion.

mutterings and meanderings said...

"the two guinea pigs sewn together that sit on his head and impersonate a toupee" - LOL!!

I can't go to livestock auctions and especially hoss sales as I would want to 'save' everything!

Mopsa said...

Horse sales can be very depressing - but some can be most uplifting if they come from good breeders. The Stow on the Wold fair for coloured cobs is usually great fun - travellers horses, but all in spanking condition, often used as trotting horses - they move beautifully.

Sara said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post and could imagine the excitement and anticipation of the auction.
Sara from farmingfriends