Chapter 3: Trash... or Treasure?

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"I reckon he did a bunk." Kanute smiles, but tightly, and only with his mouth. His eyes and voice are flat. 'Doing a bunk' means to have left suddenly, usually in somewhat suspicious circumstances.

I nod. "It surely looked that way."

The reason we reached the conclusion of a hasty retreat was the pitiful lack of anything useful or even usable left behind. This farm 'boasted' a barely adequate house and dairy; a couple of sheds in a dubious state; a hammer mill for pulverising the grain (obviously left because it was old and huge-and it was bolted securely to a concrete slab). Other than these, we inherited an ancient forage harvester and bin for cutting silage, and one small, lonely spanner that had been dropped in the dirt and obviously forgotten... once upon a time, long ago by the look of it.

The 'caretaker' sheep farmer milking the cows until we began share-farming had been urgently and unwillingly enlisted from another large beef and sheep property he managed for the same owner of this dairy we were destined to buy. His life experience until recent years had been in the far north of our State on sheep stations. He saw milking cows as a necessary evil, counting the days until he could return to the land and work he loved.

"How bloody tough was it?" Kanute's mouth tightens. A long moment stretches out as I nod slowly, deep in my own memories of those frustrating days. So much repair and replacement we needed to get going on, but no machines or tools or equipment to do it with. Lost in those thoughts, I don't even sense the minutes that pass until at last he continues. "Wonder how many clearing sales we went to in those years?"

Now different thoughts make me smile again. We haunted every clearing sale-near and far-to start building our stash of tools and fencing materials and the like. We could be relied upon to bid on (and most often win) the cheapest boxes of what was undoubtedly 'junk' in other people's eyes. Not in ours. The numerous nuts and bolts, UFO's (or Unidentifiable Fittings and Odds-and-ends), and all the bits and pieces other farmers took for granted were precious gems to we who had nothing.

"Cheapest prices alright... except for that essential tractor, and mower, and header. Not to mention all the other machinery we so desperately needed." A deep frown creases my man's forehead. "No bargains there... not a one, sadly." These would take much longer to acquire, due to our abject poverty dictating what (and when) we could afford such 'luxuries'. "Ironic wasn't it? In the worst kind of need for those machines, but needed to notch up a farm credit rating first, didn't we? Talk about a bloody CATCH 22!"

Some time ago, I wrote articles about the 'flavour' of the farm clearing sale, and here is the first story of the farm clearing sale experience as it applied to our dairying years. These are the vivid memories of the unique atmosphere we experienced so many times, as one man's trash truly became our treasure. Apart from a little editing, here it is again - as true to these rural experiences as ever it was. I called it -

Going, Going, Gone... and so it Begins

Most people have been to an auction, whether as observers or actual participants. There are real estate land auctions; house or business property auctions; and furniture, fine art and collectors' auctions, just to name a few. And then there is the farm clearing sale. Although sharing many similarities to the others, this rural auction truly stands out like a sunflower in a paddock of clover.

For the potential bidders, it begins with an advertisement in the local paper, some weeks before the Clearing Sale itself. Budding bidders spend considerable time agonizing over the desire to purchase balanced against their needs and available funds. Phone calls are made to the auctioning agents for more details of the chosen items-things like age, wear, rough guesstimate of price and how fierce bidding is likely to be... these and many other questions arise. Amazingly, the agents have a near-crystal ball vision and knowledge of all these matters.

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