It’s been a while since I typed out a post just for you. I know I’ve been double-dipping lately- slapping stuff on this site that I’ve written for my new employer, Seven Days. In the daily newspaper business from whence I came, we call that “repurposing” or “reverse publishing.” If I were you- and thankfully I’m not- I would think this is pretty cheap on my part. And you’d be right. But Seven Days is working my fingers to bloody nubs and I don’t have time to do everything.
You can take comfort though in the knowledge that this post is just for you. Don’t get too excited- you haven’t read it yet. I’m going to tell you a little story about a farm auction I attended a couple days ago for work. If that doesn’t pique your interest, I’m not sure what will.
On Wednesday I hopped in the Vibrator and tootled on up to the little hamlet of West Glover in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. I was heading to the dispersal of the Borland Farm, a 400-acre dairy farm with 140 head that was going out of business due to our economy being in the crapper. Oh, and because corporate scumbags have sold their souls to keep prices of milk at rock-bottom levels, effectively screwing families like the Borlands in the poopshoot.
I had no idea what to expect at the auction, as was evidenced by my poor choice of footwear and indeed, my entire outfit. I should have known, since I have been to many livestock auctions in my day. One of my father’s clients- a fellow curiously named Clare Carnes- owned an auction house and I have vague memories of sitting in the stands watching cows and pigs sent to their ignoble deaths. Ahh, the follies of youth. But this auction on Wednesday was an entire farm dispersal, meaning that everything from foot wash trays to $100,000 John Deeres were on the block.
As I drove up the farm road behind a trailer from Connecticut, I had that sinking feeling I get when I’m unprepared for something. That’s of course because I was unprepared. I forgot a notebook, I only brought one pen, I didn’t have a hat or sunscreen, my clothing was a skoch too provocative for the occasion and I as I mentioned before, my footwear was all wrong. But, as I am an intrepid girl reporter, I didn’t let unpreparedness stand in the way of an awesome day.
The crowd was enormous when I pulled up to the farm. American-made trucks lined the farm road and hardscrabble farmers wearing Carharrts and muck boots or steel-toed waffle-stompers hiked the quarter-mile-long dirt drive to get to the farm. The sun beat down and I knew that by the end of the day, I would have gotten enough UV rays to speed up my inevitable skin cancer by at least a decade.
As I arrived at the farm, winded and sweating from my walk up the driveway, the breadth of event struck me. There were farmers from every New England state, plus New York and Pennsylvania. At least 500 of them. And these weren’t well-to-do gentleman farmers or neo-progressive CSA hippies neither. These were pot-bellied, feed-cap-wearing, sons of bitches, gosh darn-it. They wore suspenders as wide as highways to hold up their faded work pants. Their T-shirts were stained and their caps were soiled with sweat. In my boat-necked, fitted T-shirt, my tight-ish jeans and my Dansko clogs, I felt like an ill-prepared tourist.
This is what interloping looks like.
Amid all the farm equipment- the tedders, the bailers, the wagons, etc.- I saw a beacon. The auction had a concession stand and at 10 a.m., farmers were noshing on “hamburgs,” hot dogs and hand-cut French fries. Of course they’d probably been up since 3 a.m. doing their various chores, so eating carnival food mid-morning wasn’t so odd.
I wandered around, surveying the scene and playing reporter with my makeshift notebook. More than once, I was asked if I wrote for the newspaper. Yes, indeed, I replied. I work for THE newspaper. Near the auction office, I got to chatting with two lovely children- Cassidy, 11, and Tyler, 8. They were related to the farm owners and they gave me the inside scoop on what was going on. They also drove my ass around in the Polaris Ranger. Tyler, whose feet could barely touch the pedals, was at the wheel and jammed that thing through the mud with precision. They became my new besties. No offense.
I’ll spare you the details of the auction, except to say that fat men with vaudeville canes are funnier than a dude getting hit in the crotch with a wiffle ball. The “ringmen,” or the fellers who are on the lookout for bids, stand in front of the auctioneer, waving their canes and shouting “Yep!” when a bidder gives a nod or a wink. All three of the auctioneers ringmen were rotund, with stubby little sausage fingers and pouring buckets of sweat under the mid-day sun. They made the auction for me.
This is what my dream car looks like.
You know what else made the auction for me? Getting hit on three times. By grizzled farmers. One man told me he liked a woman with a firm handshake. That was after he complimented me on the firmness of my grip. Another man invited me to go skiing at Killington with him. He wasn’t a real farmer clearly because real farmers don’t have time for trivial activities like skiing. They’re too busy feeding America. Later that day, when I returned to the office, I had an email waiting from another farmer who invited me to come to the Addison County Farm Days. I realize this is pretty weak proof that I was getting hit on, but a girl’s gotta keep her self-esteem up somehow.
Perhaps the most disturbing part of the day was not watching the generations-old farm go to low-balling scavengers, but rather observing the interactions of a handful of seemingly inbred Mennonite teens. All the kids had teeth like picket fence slats and stood with their mouths agape staring at people. Their eyes sat nearly on top of each other and they all had skin like a lava field. The girls, who had braids down to their behinds, wore sackcloth jumpers and trucker caps, while the boys wore high-water pants roped to their waists with crumbling leather belts. Every single one of them wore the same spectacles. I don’t have anything against Mennonites- heck, some of my best friends are anabaptists- but these kids made me terrifically sad.
After four-plus hours at the Borland Farm, my skin was the color of raw meat. It was time to go. I said goodbye to the cows and hobbled down in the road in my mud-caked clogs. I got in the steamy Vibe and took off down the road. At an intersection, I ran into the children of the corn. Luckily, I was going the other direction.