Monday, September 23, 2019

The Shrewd King 10.1: The Auction House

Farmer Ken stood behind a table at the front of the main show room in Kate’s store. She had agreed to use her store as the site for the auction, even though she was not happy about the possibility of the price of corn going up.

She had no idea.

Tables and shelves had been dragged to the sides of the room, opening up the space in the middle where folding chairs had been arranged in rows.

Farmers Earl and Don were sitting at a table to Ken’s left, checking in bidders and assigning numbers as they came through the side door.

A couple of young Hispanic men sat toward the back of the room. There was something “urban” about them: Maybe their footwear, maybe the fact that they wore sunglasses rather than baseball caps.

A fat man with a sunburned face entered the room after they did. He mumbled something just under his breath as he passed them.

The younger of the Hispanic men started to rise out of his seat when the older man, all of thirty, made a small motion and the younger man sat back down like a well trained dog. The younger man was clearly not happy about being brought back to heel.

The fat man sat two rows in front of the Hispanic men and stretched out his arm, taking up all of three seats and parts of two more. He stretched out his legs and pushed the seat in front of him forward before farting.

Kate and Luke already had numbers.

A thin, east-Indian man that Ken recognized as Pete got a number and sat on the other side of the aisle, the side that was away from the side door.

John and Sam Wilder came and got a number. They sat behind Pete.

Gabby Gonzales (formerly Salazar) and Kelly Carney, of gasifier, brewing and soy-oil fame, sat together and shared a ticket. They needed grain for the distillery and soy beans for the oil operation.

Paul Seraph arrived but did not register.

Mr Ed Hall got a number as did a few of the other locals. Ed was fiddling with a smartphone. Clearly, he intended to record the auction and play it back as a broadcast.

Entertainment was hard to find on a Monday evening.

Ken banged the gavel against the top of his "podium". His Casio read exactly 6:00 PM.

“This is the first auction to sell grain held by the three of us” Ken said, gesturing at the two other farmers who still sat at the registration table.

“We will hold an auction every Monday. We will not sell grain outside the auction. When the auction is over, selling is over until the next Monday” Ken said.

“The grain will be sold in lots of fifteen bushels.” Ken said. "That is about a thousand pounds of ear corn and was chosen because it is about what most wagons can carry."

It was also about what a hundred people would eat in a week if they didn't have chickens or livestock to feed. It was a good, round number to work with.

The fat man interrupted “How do you intend to measure the grain?”

“I was getting to that.” Ken said.

“The grain will be sold in lots of fifteen bushels.” Ken repeated.

Ken had been to many auctions. Sometimes, when the auction was being run by a young auctioneer, the auctioneer would lose control of the selling. Ken had observed that the old-timers did not allow buyers to set the pace or agenda. When interrupted, the old-timers repeated what they had been saying and continued with their patter. In fact, they would often punish the impatient by slowing down their delivery as if talking to somebody who was especially stupid.

“Shelled corn runs 56 pounds to the bushel. Corn-on-the-ear runs 68 pounds to the bushel. We sell by the volume. If you object to the volume we will weigh the weight of the measure. If measure is light, the entire load is discounted in favor of the buyer. If the measure is heavy then the buyer must pay the extra for the entire lot. We will only entertain a weight measure ONCE per buyer. Is that understood?” Ken said.

The bidders nodded although the fat man grimaced at the possibility of having to pay extra if the volume measure proved to be in his favor.

“How do I know your scale is honest.” the fat man interrupted again.

Ken looked down at him, coldly. Ken was an honest 6’-2” tall and the fat man was sitting. “If you don’t trust us you are free to take your custom elsewhere.”

“Buyer is responsible for bringing any containers. We are selling in bulk.”

“Buyers are responsible for monitoring quality. We make no warrants or guarantees for after the corn leaves the property.

“Buyers must pick up their corn within a week of buying. We will not store sold corn beyond a week.” Ken said. "If you don't pick it up it becomes our corn."

“Terms of the sale are cash-on-the-barrelhead or credit if the sellers agree to the terms.” Ken said, pointing at Kate’s office. Since Kate did not have a podium, Ken had taken an actual barrel and sawed 10” off one end to use as a podium and to serve as a place to strike his gavel.

“In the future, credit must be secured before you will be issued a bidding number.” Ken said.

“For today, and today only, we accepting the following at par value:
  • 300 silver dollars (about 230 ounces of silver)
  • one-man-year of labor,
  • one healthy, full-sized horse between two and six years of age
  • 1200 Watts of solar panels with integrated controllers.

“Seller has placed a reserve.” Ken said. "If the reserve is not met on the first lot then none of the lots of that product will be sold."

“More than one lot is available but I am not at liberty to say how many lots are available.” He finished.

“Soybeans will be sold after the corn.” Ken said. “May I see a show of hands, how many bidders are here for corn.”

Five hands went up.

Benicio and his wingman were there to see if they could pick up a bargain.

Denny Blastic was going through the corn faster than he could account for. The horses were not touching the hay he had cut and he was supplementing with even more corn than he used in the winter.

Luke, Kate and Pete were there to buy stock for their stores.

“With no further ceremony, let’s start the bidding." Ken said.



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