Sunday, February 12, 2006

The train doesn't stop here anymore

Randy and I headed out yesterday morning to a public auction on River Road in Dewart, about 15 miles north-ish of here. (I'm bad with directions but good at navigating with a map--go figure). Big mildewed tent (think very sad circus) staked up in the side yard, deep muddy ruts in the driveway, old plain two-story farmhouse (also for sale, and though I was curious I couldn't bring myself to walk through the house) on three acres. Auctioneer's Heeeeey, whaddyathinkwegothere, who'll gimme fifty to start, fiftyfiftytwentyten, tenten five who'll give a dollar and let's go. Cold morning, people milling about the furniture stacked in the yard, crowded along the sides and back of the tent (the whole middle area taken up by those who'd brought their own lawn chairs). There were several old people--really, really old people--and I found myself scoping out the crowd, trying to figure out who was the family whose house and belongings were on the block.

If you've never been to a country auction, it's an experience. A woman to my right kept winking and smiling at Randy--all of which I missed; he told me about it later in the truck. The auctioneer paused for a train that barreled through on the tracks just across the narrow road. Cars and trucks were parked on both sides of the road for a good half-mile; we arrived an hour after the auction was scheduled to start and managed to grab a spot where someone had just pulled out. After three hours of waiting, the lot I had my eye on came up: a box of feed sack fabrics, along with two other boxes of linens. I had told Randy how high he could go for the feedsacks but I had not dug through the box to make sure what was in there. The bidding was giddily fast between R and someone else I couldn't see, hey five yessir five gimme ten, ten fifteen and fifteen twenty, twenty now twenty-five twenty-five, Randy nodding at the auctioneer, the price going up to $37.50 within--it seemed--mere seconds, and the other bidder dropped out and just like that, we won.

I lugged two of the boxes out to the truck as R waited for our ticket to come round to the pay table. There's an old, falling-down building just across the raised railroad tracks, amid a thicket of maples and raspberry briars. I took the digital cam from the truck and headed back. R was just carrying our third box from the tent, so I asked him to take a couple photos of this old building (and of the rusted-out ancient truck slumping in front of it) while I stowed the third box.

Climbed up the muddy hill and walked back to meet Randy, who was being talked at by a strange-looking fellow, just a local guy who was telling all about how this had been a train depot and wasn't it a shame how they'd let it go, if someone got in there and got hurt there'd be hell to pay. The large sharp gravel around the tracks might have been marble chips?--light gray, and it clinked with an almost glasslike sound as I caught up with R, took the camera, and worked my way through the briars to get a couple of photos.

A boy playing in the yard of a nearby house started yelling Hey, there's someone over there! and I heard a man, presumably his father, complain That's why I hate living next to that place. I took two photos of the broken windows and headed back to the train tracks, where this other guy was still talking to Randy. He continued talking as we made our way back to the truck, then--Hey this isn't your vehicle is it? You voted for Kerry? You don't like Bush? and Who do you think's gonna win for governor? Those colored people, we used to own them, and now they're taking over--

And Randy was in and shut his door, and we were off.

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