I wrote this a few years ago, but was reminded of it recently because my friend often goes to yard sales and I told her about this auction. Gary’s family also attended regularly- it’s a wonder we didn’t meet as children. Or maybe we did! lol
During much of my childhood a trip to Cherry Auction was a weekly ritual. Cherry Auction was the equivalent of a huge yard sale, a produce market, and a sale barn all packed together on an old farm place. I still remember the big, open field that served as a parking lot. It was bumpy and dusty in the summer, and slippery and dangerous in the winter. Daddy had to dodge dirt clods and ease over huge holes to find a parking space among the other battered pickups and aging station wagons. Mama and I walked carefully around the clumps of grass to avoid stepping on the scattered animal droppings as we made our way to the main gate. Sometimes in the winter we all had to hold hands to get safely from the car to the entrance.
Once there, Daddy would give us each a fifty-cent piece. For my three brothers and me, that was a fortune, especially since it didn’t come with any restrictions or instructions about how to spend it. Then we had to pretend to “decide” where to go first because Daddy and the boys always went to the sale barn first, while Mom and I went to peruse the tables of used clothing and other household goods. We agreed to meet later at the produce market. In those days that simply meant checking their watches and agreeing on a time.
Mama and I would make our way down the rows of tables, along with hundreds of other people looking for bargains. Mama would hold up this and that and look at prices and check for stains while I silently prayed, “Lord don’t let her make me wear that to school.” The fifty-cent piece would grow heavy in my sweaty palm as I tried to decide what to buy. The possibilities were endless. Everywhere I turned there were treasures: shiny colored glassware, strange-looking statues, jewelry of every description, dolls with well-loved faces and shabby clothing, old comic books, and records by people with unfamiliar names. And of course the tantalizing aroma of food made it even harder to decide. There were small food concessions at regular intervals. The strong smell of popcorn came from one of the outdoor booths, the aroma of roast-beef sandwiches drifted out of the old cafeteria, a huge pile of fresh bananas at the produce stand gave off a fragrant scent and there were lots of smells I couldn’t even untangle from the rest. I was tempted to save my money for my favorite- sugar cane, but usually if Daddy was in a good mood or had just sold a crop he would buy us each a piece of sugar cane with his money. If I thought that was going to happen I’d just clutch my coin tighter and wait.
I remember once I bought a worn copy of “Little Women” from an old gray-haired woman. She had a front tooth missing and her fingertips were yellowed from tobacco, but she smiled and told me it was a wonderful book. She was right. Another time I bought a pretty blue vase.
When we passed the crowd around the furniture sale I listened intently to the auctioneer. No matter how often I listened, I never understood how he did it. It sounded like a magic language only grownups could understand. And the furniture seemed so beautiful! Mama would stop to caress an oak table or a pretty dresser, while I dreamed of buying my own desk someday.
Soon it would be time to move on to the produce market. We would shop for just a little while before Daddy appeared with the boys. It amazed me to watch Mama at the vegetable stands as she decided which vegetables and fruits were worthy of her money. She was so careful with our limited funds, yet she always bought enough so that we all carried bags to the car and my arms strained with the weight of my share.
After we locked our purchases in the trunk of the car, we went back to the barn to watch the sale for a while. To get to the barn we had to walk past the cages of the small animals. There were soft furry rabbits with delicate faces, funny white chickens with fuzzy legs, squawking geese, brightly colored ducks, and fat red hens. I wanted to take them all home. Sometimes Daddy agreed and we already had a menagerie of ducks and chickens and rabbits at home, but there was always room in my heart for just one more.
The sight of the barn always brought a smile to my face. One week my “middle” brother had been a little too curious about a hole in the side of the barn and had stuck his head through it. Of course he couldn’t get it back out. We alternated between panic and spasms of hysterical laughter as Daddy spent nearly fifteen minutes gently easing him out. He cried only long enough to receive a few kisses from Mama and then was eager to go through the door to see what was going on inside.
The sale barn was a noisy dusty place that smelled of fresh manure. Mama seldom ventured inside for long. I kind of enjoyed it. It was exciting and the people were fascinating. There was a man on a small platform who shouted in the same language as the furniture salesman, only much louder. People sat on bleachers waiting for fat red heifers and wooly sheep to enter the ring. Sometimes there were even horses. Those were the days I wanted to stay longer.
After the sale we would walk to the produce stand one more time and Daddy would buy four sticks of sugar cane. He would pull out his big pocket knife, trim the ends and hand us each our treat. We would reluctantly make our way across the parking lot to our car while Mama and Daddy compared their bargain hunting. The boys would show me their marbles or comic books or toy soldiers and I would show them my “new” book or doll. We would ride home talking and laughing and chewing the sweet cane.