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A Trip to Dover

Dad and I were ready for the trip to Dover. Dover was synonymous for going to the Carroll’s Livestock Auction. Cambridge was the same. If you were visiting Cambridge, you were going to the insane asylum.

It was also like visiting a foreign country. There were all kinds of strange people wandering around. We never went just to look around and bid on a few things. We had a definite purpose. We were either going to buy small pigs or a cow. For this trip to Dover, Dad wanted to buy six to eight little pigs. Or slightly larger pigs called shoats.

We didn’t want any of the lean breeds like the Yorkshire that people want today. We wanted a breed that would grow big and fat. One that would produce a lot of lard.

We had two chicken crates on the back of the truck to hold the pigs. We were off to Dover.

It’s a sixty-mile trip and would take us a good two hours to get there. Most of the time dad cruised along at thirty-five mph. Never more than forty.

We finally reached Carroll’s Auction.  Dad turned me loose with a few words. “Don’t get into any trouble and be ready to leave after I buy some pigs.”

My first area to explore was the flea market. An auctioneer was already selling items. It was strictly “cash and carry.” When the auctioneer struck it off to someone, the man paid cash and then carried off his treasure.  Rarely was there any treasure. It was mostly farm and household items that needed some degree of repair.

Once a farmer bought a tractor, he sold his mules and equipment to some nearby farmer. Anything left over was taken to the auction.

I walked into the main building. It was a culture shock for a small rural farm boy. I was use to crowds of people in Ocean City. They were all well dressed and the same kind of people.

The long room was crowded with all types of people. Farmers were in old bib overalls, their wives in dresses and bonnets. Black farmers dressed the same way.  Then there were the Dunkards (Dunkers). A sect that splintered off from The Church of the Brethren along with the Hutterites, Amish and Mennonites. All believed in peaceful co-existence and refused military service. The Hutterites moved to the Northwest and Canada.

The men never shaved, wore black pants, a denim jacket and a black hat.  They held most of the jobs dealing with the animals. The women wore long dresses and bonnets.

A man was auctioning whole bunches of bananas just like they came from the banana tree. He would pull the bunch from a hamper basket, rip paper and straw away to display the bunch. You bid on the whole bunch, basket and all. Whenever dad came home with bananas, we had bananas, banana cake and banana pudding until they were all gone.

There was always a jewelry table and a few people who collected pocket watches. Some of the old farmers would have a valuable watch. Sometimes it needed repair or they wanted to trade it for a newer model. Probably most of the time they just wanted an opinion on its value.

A man at another table was selling a little gadget that supposedly increased the voltage and size of the spark going to the spark plugs. Back then, farm tractors and trucks were a pill to start on a foggy and misty morning. Normal spark would arc about a quarter-inch. His doo-dad would make the spark jump an inch. I remember dad taking the spark plugs out of an old Fordson tractor and putting them on the hot stove on a foggy morning. Sometimes it helped. The man was probably a con artist.

I ran to another building. A man was auctioning off chicken coops or crates of all sorts of fowls. There were coops of all kinds of chickens.

There were banties (bantams) of all colors and descriptions. Some had tail feathers dragging the ground. Some were drab. Some had all the colors of a rainbow. Half were feather footed.   Coops full of  Rhode Island Reds, the variety we grew on the farm. Other coops held Pekin, Muscovy, Mallard and other unknown duck varieties. Guineas were there, both pearl and white.  The old gray goose was there along with Chinese, African and Canada geese. You bought the coop and everything in it. The banties were so pretty. Mom liked banties because they made great setting hens. She would put six or seven duck eggs under a setting banty hen. When they hatched, the banty hen made an excellent mother.

I ran outside to check on the pigs. There were pens galore with small pigs in the first row. Mostly black pigs, a few red durocs, black and white Poland-Chinas, plain white and some black and white spotted. The pigs were lying on straw, paying little attention to the crowd of people peering at them. The auctioneer wasn’t selling yet. I took off for another section.

There were catwalks above the big animals. I walked along looking down at milk cows, steers and huge bulls in heavy oak pens.

I heard the auctioneer selling something. His chant and sing-song spiel was completely foreign. I didn’t understand a word. He was selling a few goats and sheep before moving on to the calves. No one in Taylorville raised goats or sheep. If a farmer had one, it was more of a pet than anything else.

The auctioneer was sitting at the edge of a small enclosure with a dirt floor. Buyers were in bleachers surrounding the pen. Animals were brought in one door, sold and taken out another door.

Dunkards began bringing in very young heifers and bull calves. All of them weighed less than a hundred pounds. The Dunkards brought in a calf. A number was on it somewhere. The auctioneer gave a brief description, its sex and breed. It was sold as an individual, not by weight.  In Fifteen seconds the animal was sold and gone to a holding pen. The buyer would come with a receipt and pick up the animal.

Larger heifers and males were brought in. Some were rambunctious and dangerous. The men in the enclosure had a safe place and also electric cattle prods. The auctioneer was selling and waving the animal out at the same time.

I broke away and ran back to the young pigs. Dad was standing beside a pen holding six pigs. He kept raising his finger and nodding at the auctioneer. In ten seconds he pointed at Dad and yelled “Sold.” We waited until the auctioneer and the crowd had moved five pens down the aisle.

He beckoned over two men who gave the young pigs a vaccine shot behind their ears.

Dad paid his bill. Dunkards loaded the pigs into the crates and on to the truck. We were ready to go home with one red, one spotted and four black pigs.    

   6/28/16       1116 words  1181