I hadn’t planned on writing a column this soon about my auctioneering experiences. After all, last Saturday’s auction was the first my sponsor, Joel T. Wilson, and I had booked together, and my first times to call bids since getting my apprentice license the week before.
But sometimes a story cries out to be told, and this is one of those times.
Last Friday evening Yvonne was reviewing the auction flyer to confirm the location and directions since she planned to drive separately. At least I thought that was all she was reviewing.
“How much do you think the telescope will bring, and when do you think it will come up for bid?” she asked.
This sounded like more than casual curiosity. I suddenly had visions of her being the winning bidder on the telescope, and possibly many more items, seriously eroding the profit margin I had envisioned for my first auction.
Not wanting to reveal my concern but hoping to dissuade her interest in bidding, I nonchalantly replied, “I found the exact same telescope on Amazon for $600 and that didn’t include the tripod. It has never been out of the box so it should bring a good price.”
I also had a good answer for the second part of her question about when the telescope would come up for bid. The words “early” and “Yvonne” don’t generally go together so with an even tone I said, “Joel always picks two or three nice items to get the bidding off to a good start and the telescope will be the first item, so If you want to bid on it you’ll have to be there early” (I drew the word out as much as I could for emphasis.)
This declaration seemed to have the desired effect. A look of disappointment came over Yvonne’s face as she said, “Really? Are you pulling my leg about when it will sell?” And before I could answer she asked, “Do you think it will bring that much?”
“I don’t know. It depends on whether we have two good bidders who want it.” (“But not you,” I thought to myself.) Then I cautiously asked, “Why, were you thinking of bidding on it?”
“Yes, I might,” she answered.
“Can I ask why?” I replied.
“Because I want to see the full beauty of the stars,” she said, smiling. Then in a more serious tone she added, “The Heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork.”
I realized Yvonne’s questions reflected far more than casual curiosity and that any further questions or comments by me would be counterproductive. Besides, how do you argue with “…the firmament shows His handiwork.”
As I pondered this thought, an invisible little cherub appeared on my right shoulder and whispered in my ear, “Don’t be a devious scoundrel; be kind; encourage her to bid on the telescope.” At the same moment an invisible little imp pounced on my left shoulder and, sounding somewhat like a parrot, whispered in my ear, “Profit and loss – profit and loss”, and then in the same voice shouted, “tell her we can’t afford it!”
I decided to ignore them both, opting for the safest course my conscience would allow. I remained silent.
On Saturday morning I arrived early to assist with last minute details and to help direct parking. Sure enough, when Joel called the crowd together at ten o’clock there was Yvonne standing just to his right ready to bid. As if to add insult to injury, Joel asked me to describe the features of the telescope, which I did while avoiding eye contact with Yvonne. “The Meade ETX125-Astro Electronic Controller Telescope is one of the finest astronomical instruments made, and blah, blah, blah,” I extolled.
After I completed my comments Joel began calling for bids. So as not to prolong and relive the agony of that moment I’ll just say, when Joel shouted “Sold!” Yvonne held up her bid number for the clerk to record.
The ringman working with me quickly held up the second item for bid, a nice like-new portable sewing machine. Meanwhile I prepared to present the third item, a fine old butter churn. When Joel shouted, “Sold!” on the sewing machine I saw Yvonne’s hand go up again, showing her bid number to the clerk, which he had by now no doubt memorized.
I was somewhat relieved when Yvonne skipped the butter churn, but the next item up for bid was ten large boxes of mostly children’s books, and I stood by in quiet astonishment as Yvonne bought eight of them. I was beginning to wonder if she was going to buy everything in the barn.
Luckily, not. After staying long enough to listen to my debut calling bids, Yvonne packed her treasurers in the car, checked out, and headed home, which, as you can imagine, was a big relief to me. (This is probably a good place to note that auctioneer staff and their family members are allowed to bid as long as this is disclosed in the opening announcement and they bid competitively like everyone else, paying full price if they win the bid.)
I was tired when I got home Saturday afternoon, and Yvonne kindly agreed we could wait for another time to set up the telescope. But with the fine warm weather we had that day, and with clear skies overhead, we decided to take a walk after supper.
As we strolled along hand in hand talking about the events of that memorable day, Yvonne said, “Honey, I’m so glad I got the telescope. I can’t wait until we can set it up to look at the stars together.”
I paused for a moment and pulled her close to my side; and as we gazed at the stars above I quietly said, “You know, Sweetie, I feel the same way, but I don’t need a telescope to see the stars. I see them every time I look into your eyes.”
George Brown is a freelance writer and apprentice auctioneer. He and his wife Yvonne live in Jackson Township.