We attended an Amish auction near Millersburg, Indiana recently. It was a personal property auction, selling off the belongings of an elderly Amish couple; the husband had recently passed away and his widow was moving into a dawdy haus (grandparent’s house) at her son’s farm.
It is common for older Amish folks who are down-sizing to auction their personal possessions. Family members and friends come from miles around to support them by buying their things for practical use and sentimental reasons. The items at this particular sale ranged from small kitchen utensils, to knick-knacks, to home furnishings, to workshop tools, to large farm machinery.
The main auction was held in a large, open-air steel barn, where we made our way through the crowds of Amish men, women, teens and children. As we entered the barn young girls in brightly colored dresses and prayer caps skipped by, arm-in-arm. We saw young boys playing outside, pretending to be workhorses plowing their fathers’ fields.
We love these auctions because as they say, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure, and you never know what you might find. At this auction we bought a small cutting board, a workshop nut and screw organizer, and a cool kitchen measuring device, all for less than $10.
At one point during the auction we noticed it had become rather quiet considering how many people were crammed into the barn. Only the auctioneer was singing out his call as the price for a small, black pair of shoes rose higher and higher. “Thirty dollars, forty, do I hear fifty?” The higher the price climbed the quieter it got, and all eyes were focused on three bidders: two young men and a young woman who smiled from opposing sides of the bidding area as the price went up and up.
The young woman was in her early twenties, with dark brown hair peeking out from under her prayer cap, a simple brown dress, dark eyes and a cheery smile. She was lean and pretty, with the strong hands of a farmer’s wife. When she bid a hundred dollars on the shoes everyone in the room stood stock still as the auctioneer chided the other bidders to reach just a little higher. One of the two young Amishmen smiled and waved his hand away to signal he was out. Big smiles covered the faces of the remaining two as it came down to the end, and finally the young man shook his head and turned away. “Sold, for one hundred dollars!” yelled the auctioneer as he brought down his gavel. The young woman laughed out loud as she gathered the shoes into her hands and the people nearby congratulated her on the purchase.
When things had quieted down I said to her, “Those shoes must be very special.” She smiled broadly and said yes, they were her beloved grandfather’s baby shoes, and several family members had hoped to be high bidder at the auction. We asked her permission to photograph the shoes and she said that would be alright, but asked if we could take the picture outside, away from the crowd. We were only too happy to oblige.