Monday, October 14, 2019
The Shrewd King 13.1: Third Auction
“Welcome to the third grain auction” Ken said.
The number of cards given to bidders was higher than the previous week. There was a buyer from Mason and Mrs Treadwell from Charlotte as well as the usual crew. Denny Blastic was not in attendance.
“We have a consignment we have been asked to auction off” Ken said. “Unlike most auction houses, we are going to auction off the highest quality corn first. Then we will auction off the regular corn. After that well will sell the soybeans and wheat. That way, most folks can leave and get back to their homes at a reasonable hour.”
Ken pointed to four, 100 pound bags of grain. “Mr Yoder and some of his neighbors were kind enough to send some grain for us to sell. Let’s hope they get the price they need so they can keep doing so.”
“Mr Yoder, what can you tell us about this corn?” Ken asked, pointing to the samples.
“Lot A is fifteen bushel from Mr Gruber. It is an open pollinated variety called Waspie Valley that ripens in 85 days. If you handle the kernels you can feel how big and heavy they are.” Mr Yoder said.
“Lot B is fifteen bushels from my farm and was grown organically. It is from hybrid seed.” Mr Yoder said.
“Lot C is fifteen bushels from Mr Yutzy and he used some super-phosphate on that field the year before so it is not technically organic. It is from hybrid seed.”
“Lot D is fifteen bushels from Mr Miller’s farm, the one who lives near the Little Thornapple River, and he grew it on bottomlands. It is a late ripening hybrid and he used propane to dry it.” Mr Yoder said. If you knew the Amish well, you would have caught a faint touch of approbation at the needless spending of money on the propane and the resulting decline in quality.
“They all have a reserve and I will nod to Mr. Ken when the reserve is met.” Mr Yoder concluded.
“OK! Whaddle-I-Be-Havin’ for fifteen bushels of Lot A. Who will gimme 100 silver dollars?” Ken started off.
“Ibbiddy-ibbiddy-ibbiddy-ted, ibbiddy-ibbiddy-ibbiddy-doo...who will give me $200?” Ken said.
“Caught you sleeping didn’t I. OK, nobody bid one hundred ibbiddy-ibbiddy-ibbiddy-dee, do I hear $90? Ibbiddy-ibbiddy-ibbiddy-dee?”
“Do I hear $50 ibbiddy-ibbiddy-ibbiddy-dee?”
Ken paused and looked out, over the audience. He did not see many friendly faces.
A good auctioneer has to read the audience. This crowd wasn’t going to make his job easy, at least not today. A good auctioneer doesn’t begrudge the crowd a bit of sweat to get a good price. If they are reluctant bidders he drops ridiculously low and gets somebody to bid something.
“Alrighty. Best corn I have seen all year, even better than mine ibbiddy-ibbiddy-ibbiddy-dine, who will give me nine ibbiddy-ibbiddy-ibbiddy-fine?”
Pete raised his card and the bidding started.
The price edged up two dollars a step. When Ken tried to push for five dollar jumps the bids stalled. Dropping back to jumps of two and he was able to squeeze out another bid.
Nine, eleven, thirteen, fifteen...
...Seventeen, nineteen, twenty-one, twenty-three...
Ken needed a sip of water to wet his whistle.
...thirty-nine, forty-one, forty-three…
Ken was running out of lame jokes.
...fifty-seven, fifty-nine, sixty-one...and Mr Yoder nodded that the reserve had been met.
Ken was relieved. He was running out of voice on the first lot of the day.
“OK, folks. I just got the nod from the seller that the reserve has been met...does anybody want to bid sixty-three ibbiddy-ibbiddy-ibbiddy-dee?” and darned if Uncle Earl didn’t bid on the corn.
Then Mrs Treadwell. Then the man from Mason. The bidding finally petered out at $83 for the lot of fifteen bushels with Uncle Earl winning. As the auctioneer it was not his place to question why, but as a fellow farmer, Ken was darned curious why Earl was buying corn.
Mr Yoder asked that each Amish lot be sold separately. Lots B, C and D all sold for $61 a lot or four dollars a bushel, silver. Pete, Kate and Luke were the buyers.
Ken said he needed a break because he needed to rest his voice. He went outside to use the outhouse and to quickly confer with Farmer Don. “We ain’t gonna get our reserve.” Ken said.
“I know that.” Don said. “Should we drop it?”
“Yeah, I think so. Nobody left the auction, so we have people who want to buy it, if the price doesn’t gouge them.” Ken said.
“What are you thinking, number wise?” Don asked.
“Well, if their reserve was $60, I don’t feel bad about getting $45 a lot. That is still three times what we were getting four weeks ago.” Ken said.
Don would have choked on $45 a bushel until Ken put it into the perspective of when Kate was setting the prices without really consulting them.
“OK, give it a shot. Let’s see if we can move any corn at that price.” Don said.
Ken followed the same format as the previous week. The winning bidder could pick as many lots at the winning price as they wanted. Then, if there were additional lots they were made available to the other bidders who had participated. Then, if there were any left after that, it was opened to the floor.
Ken had to drop the initial bid down to $5 to get any action. Then he had to work it up $2 a bid until he hit $35 a lot. After that he was working to get a dollar increment. At $42 he was sawing away and getting fifty cent bids. He finally got the $45 a lot and sweat was pouring off his forehead. He was delighted to announce that the reserve had been met.
Kelly was the winning bidder and took two lots. Mrs Treadwell was the other bidder and she picked one lot. Benico bought a lot for a total of four lots.
The farmers walked home together. It was a quiet walk.
Don was depressed. He had been counting his chickens before they hatched.
“You should be smiling.” Ken said. “We got $180 for sixty bushels of corn. A month ago we would have gotten less than half that for seventy-five bushels of corn. The other thing is that we didn’t sell out. We throttled demand if you figure that Earl BOUGHT a lot of corn, we only sold a net of three lots.”
“Yeah, I guess that may be so.” Don said, morosely. “For a week I was a rich man. Now I am back to being a working stiff.”
“Hey Earl,” Ken said “Why did you buy corn at the auction. Its your own business but it just seem odd.”
“Did you feel that corn? It felt as heavy as buckshot. Son, I wasn’t buying corn. I was buying seed” Earl said. "There was enough seed there to plant thirty acres of corn."
“I’ve been watching that Amish seed we planted. It is two feet taller than the f2 hybrid we are growing, its got more leaves and heavier tassels. That comes in handy when it comes to shading out weeds.”