I was bidder number 52.
Every day it becomes a little more difficult to scratch out a living as a small farmer in rural America. Let's just say there's not a lot working in our favor. And for every farmer who (either by force or by choice) gives up, it isn't only a farm that dies. Entire communities—from the feed dealer to the bank owner—are dependent upon the success of local small farmers. And t mhose of us who do stick it out pretty much all must rely on some sort of off-farm income.
A difficult, honest, and incredibly rewarding way of living is teetering on the brink of extinction.
More below. . .
But there is hope. Last night our local livestock auction barn saw 770 'head' run through its doors during its new monthly Goat & Sheep Auction. That's a very big number for a tiny, family run operation, especially considering we're deep in the heart of cattle country. It also saw some of the highest prices paid for goats in the state.
But last night was about much more than just numbers. It was about laughing with strangers, smiling at friends, and being a part of something that was not happening 'just for fun,' was not a ride at an amusement park, was not a game of Let's Pretend. It was about being surrounded by hard working people who know they will never be rich and who really don't care. People who want nothing more than to be able to keep doing what they're doing. It was real.
Sitting on my wooden perch in the highest row of bleachers, I take a slow, deep breath, blink back a tear, and regard everything and everyone around me. I want each detail of this moment, this now, this real, to somehow be absorbed into my soul.
I am grateful to be here. I am filled with the kind of joy that cannot be explained, only experienced. And I know that, at least for tonight, my little corner of Small Town America is alive and well and kicking and stomping and squealing and baaing. And I can only hope it stays that way.
I arrived at the sale barn early, as much of the 'show' begins well before the auctioneer switches on his microphone. It is crazy yet calm. You can quietly wander among the animals back in the pens, or you can strike up a conversation with a stranger. Everyone is in a good mood. Once the real action starts, though, things are fast, furious, and lots of fun to watch.
At a small animal auction like this one, you never know what might come shooting through the doors and racing into the ring. It could be anything from an extremely pregnant sow to 44 adorable baby goats. All the while, the auctioneer keeps up a running monologue in that lightning-fast language of his, urging the crowd to bid, bid, bid—and he doesn't stop until the very last animal is sold. This is country living at its best.
Are you ready? Then let's go.