Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Lots of things happened this past week. First, we went to the Minnesota State Fair, which, next to Texas, is the largest state fair in the country. We went on Thursday the 22nd, opening day – and very early in the morning. We arrived at around six-thirty, while it was very cool out and before many of the rides and concessions were open. We had breakfast at the Blue Mood Cafe and Theater, eating delicious Belgian waffles while seated on old car seats and watching Vincent Price in The Tingler. We went to the animal barns to see rabbits, chickens (I love chickens, Tanya loves rabbits), then to the horse barn, then the cattle barn, then the swine barn – the biggest boar was very ugly), then to the arena to watch a very little girl on a small pony (the only contestant in her class) ride a complex pattern of jumps without a single fault. We went to Heritage Square to listen to the Roe Family Hillbilly Band play traditional songs, including the old hymn, “I’ll Fly Away.” We ate crab cakes in The Caribe Cafe then went to the International Bazaar to listen to the New Orleans-style brass band, Dirty Shorts, play, among other songs, “I’ll fly Away.” We went to the Creative Arts Building to see wood carvings and needlework (the quilts were amazing). We ate some more, wandered past some of the rides, bought souvenirs, and finally went to Sweet Martha’s for still-warm chocolate-chip cookies which we took to the Moo Booth for milk (buy a cup, get in line for a free refill, get back in line for another free refill), We finally came home in rush hour traffic around four-thirty, exhausted, sun stricken, and content.
Then on Friday I went to a friend’s house to take some lessons in crochet. I sort of know how, but she is an excellent teacher (though I could see her efforts to not interfere while I struggled to hold the yarn and hook correctly and work it through the loops I was forming). I just learned single crochet this time. Double crochet for the next lesson! This is the first time I feel I understand what I’m (trying) to do.
On Sunday I missed church to drive with Ellen to Dodge Center, a very small town in south-central Minnesota, close to two hours from home. We were going to a really big estate auction, and I wanted to get there early to interview Matt Maning, auctioneer. He was really nice and patient, and I’m starting to grasp the business of auctioneering. The auction was at a rather small, old house, but the front, back and side yards were packed with antique furniture and tables of household goods, tools, and collectibles. The husband of the homeowner couple had a hobby of refinishing antique furniture and the last years of their lives were lived downstairs while the upstairs, basement and attic were packed to the ceilings with tables, dressers, chairs, and cabinets, mostly oak, dating to the early part of the twentieth century. Matt and his two sons divided the smaller goods into “lots,” like a set of dishes, or eight or ten pottery chickens, or stemware, or costume jewelry. He uses the familiar “chant,” speaking very fast and repeating and repeating the next higher bid to stir the crowd, and was selling two lots a minute. His adult sons stood at the front of the raised table where he was sitting and pointed at bidders with a shout when a bid was raised, then pointing at a bidder who was bidding against someone else, to cue them to raise their bid, back and forth. Five seconds of no bids and Matt would yell ‘Sold!” and the price of the lot and the number of the bidder – everyone who wanted to take part was given a piece of white cardboard with a number on it. This card was held up by the winning bidders, and recorded by Matt’s wife on a laptop computer. At the end of the auction, everyone went to a window in the auctioneer’s van to turn in the card. Those who won would find a printout with their winnings listed waiting for them. They can pay cash, check, or credit card, and must take the item(s) away with them. I think a number of bidders own antique shops. Matt charges ten or fifteen percent over the winning bid as his take for holding the auction. Plus he charges the owner of the property to come and set things up and run the auction. Matt is a heavyset fellow with a broad face that gets redder and redder as the auction rolls on. Made me worry about his blood pressure. One item I was really interested in: a radiator cap/hood ornament dating to the 1920s shaped like a woman’s head with a kind of wing coming back behind her, very, very pretty. I was hoping nobody knew how valuable such things are, but they sure did; it sold for $210! On September 9 I’m going to an art auction to see how differently it’s organized. This is all research for The Needle Case.
Answer: Hot, because you can catch a cold.