Tuesday, October 8, 2019
The Shrewd King 12.2: The second auction
Kate was mad enough to spit. That, in itself was a rare event. The fact that everybody else in the store was agitated was also notable.
“What happened?” Ken asked when he noticed everybody glaring daggers at him. Frankly, he was not very popular and he was kind of used to it. But this was exceptional.
“La-Loyd and Wesley Blastic showed up and tried to make me take a beat-up nag...telling me it was the collateral that Denny used to take the loan.” Kate said.
“It is all your fault, you know.” she added.
Ken was clueless.
“How do you know it is not the same horse?” Ken asked.
Kate whipped out her smart-phone. There was no cell coverage but they were still very useful as calculators...and cameras. Kate scrolled through a bunch of pictures and finally pulled out the one she was looking for. “There. That is Suzy. The one Denny Blastic pledged as collateral. Look at her color! Look at the star on her forehead and look at how straight her back is and the muscling in her hindquarters.”
“Now, come out here and look at the pony they tied to the tree behind the store.” Kate said.
Ken good naturedly followed Kate outside. Tied to the small walnut tree behind the store was a shaggy, geriatric pony, much in need of brushing and very much in need of having its hooves trimmed.
“Do you have any documentation that this is not the pony Blastic pledged?” Ken asked.
Kate withered him with a stare. “Of course I had him sign a contract. He pledged a chestnut Standardbred mare named Suzy. For God’s sake, Ken, this pony is a gelding!”
“Point taken.” Ken said. “Blastic had to settle up with you to be eligible to bid next auction. Looks to me like he tried get off cheap.”
“What do you want me to do.” Kate challenged.
“If it were me, I would start billing Blastic for boarding his...” at this point Ken could barely keep a straight face...”boarding his horse.”
The next auction was held on Monday. The room was arranged as before. Blastic raised a stink when he was not issued a bidding number. After verbally roughing up Earl and Don, he decided he would just buy corn from one of the other bidders after the auction.
Walking into the room behind the chairs, he noticed the two Hispanic men. They were eating some crackers and cheese. He muttered under his breath, “Looks like we got ourselves a little Spic-nic here, don’t it.”
Blastic snorted with laughter when the younger man started to rise. Blastic would have broken him like a twig. Damned good thing the other Spic settled him down. Blastic never got tired of jerking people's chains. It was cheap, easy fun.
Like the week before, Kate, Luke, Pete, Benicio had numbers. Blastic did not. Paul Seraph had a number this week as did Abraham Yoder, one of the Amish from west of Kate’s Store.
“For sale is Lot-Number-One. There is a reserve on this lot. If the reserve is not met, none of the other lots of corn will be sold.”
“Lot-Number-One is fifteen bushels of prime, clean, last-years, Michigan corn. Who will give me 95 silver dollars?”
“Ibbidy, ibbidy, ibbiddy dee” Farmer Ken singsonged in traditional auctioneer fashion.
He paused and looked around the room.
“Who will give fifty? Ibbiddy-ibbiddy-ibbiddy-oo”
Pete said “I bid sixty.”
“I have sixty, I have sixty, do I have seventy? Ibbiddy-ibbiddy-ibbiddy-dee”
Kelly, with hardly a pause in the bidding said “I will give seventy.”
Back-and-forth, without any hesitation Pete and Kelly scrambled up the ladder in jumps of $10 a lot until Kelly bid $90 in silver for a lot.
“I have ninety, I have ninety, do I have a hundred? Ibbiddy-ibbiddy-ibbiddy-dee” Ken sing-songed.
“I bid ninety-five.” Pete said.
Ken paused the head-long rush in bidding to announce “The reserve has been met.”
Kelly bid $100 a lot and Pete let him win the bid.
Ken asked Kelly “How many lots do you want?”
“I will take four.” Kelly said.
“More lots are available. Does the other bidder want lots at the same price?” Ken asked.
Pete said. “I will take two.”
Ken, Earl and Don had talked about how many lots to make available. Before the first auction, they had been shipping out seventy bushels a week or roughly five lots a week. Since they hadn’t shipped any grain the entire previous week, they budgeted a total of ten “lots” for the current auction.
That left four lots unspoken for.
“Additional lots remain available.” Ken said. “I can offer a lot to every person with a bidding card who did not bid.”
Benicio, Kate, Luke and Seraph nodded that they each wanted a lot. Abraham Yoder shook his head “No.”
Farmer Ken declared the bidding was over for the week.
Blastic swaggered over to Kelly and demanded that Kelly sell him fifteen bushels of corn. Kelly, a shorter than average man, had always hated bullies. Kelly said “No thank-you.” as he walked over to the office to “settle up.”
Much to his distaste, Blastic went over to Pete and demanded fifteen bushels of corn. Pete looked at Blastic as if he were something slimy found after turning over a rock. This was the man whose son pulled a gun on his brother.
Yoder, the Amish non-bidder said, “Maybe I can help you.”
“You didn’t buy any corn. How can you help me?” Blastic said, dismissively.
“I did not come here to buy. I am selling.” Yoder said.
It snapped into focus. The Amish had harvested their fields in November before the plague reached Eaton Count. Then half of them died in the plague. They had WAY more corn than they needed for the next year.
“I will give you a silver dollar a bushel.” Blastic said.
Suddenly, Abraham Yoder was as implacable as an old Testament prophet. “You are not in a position to set the terms.”
“You will settle up with Kate Salazar. You pledged the chestnut mare on the team you drove here. You will honor your pledge.” Yoder said.
“I already honored that pledge. I can’t help it if she weaseled on the terms.” Blastic tried to bully his way through.
Yoder’s gaze was impassive as the sun. “You will honor your pledge before I will do business with you. The horse you tried to give her is barely fit for rendering.”
“But I cannot drive my wagon home with just one horse.” Blastic said, grasping at straws.
“That will not be a problem.” Yoder said. “The price for you, for fifteen bushels of corn, is the other horse. It is just as easy to not drive a wagon home with no horses as it is to not drive it home with one horse.”
Blastic did not really have a choice. His horses were starving. His slaves were starving. He had penned up two horses with the “brome grass” hay and they appeared more inclined to eat dirt than to nibble on the poorly made hay. After a week they had eaten less than a quarter bale of hay.
Another man might have called on the radio to get a ride back home. But Blastic was not another man. He would have died before he advertised over the open CB channels that he had fared poorly.
He waited until dark and then walked home. His footwear was ill suited for walking on gravel roads. He favored soft, thin-soled shoes that were almost slippers. By the time he had walked the five miles...in the dark...he was lamed and in very ill humor.