And one more piece of the community fabric in Dakota County, MN. has just been torn. The bi-monthly Fahey consignment auction (I often called it the “buy-monthly” as it was a main source of equipment and tools for Gardens of Eagan for thirty+ years) has discontinued it’s on-site, in-person portion of the auction and is only available through on-line bidding.
Martin told me this at the breakfast table today. I can easily see the financial and logistical gains in discontinuing the in-person portion, the liability, the managing of people and parking their trucks, the crowd of bidders lining up for their number and again to pay at the end, the cigarette butts dropped and the churned mud from boots. No more bad auction days when it is freezing and pouring rain and only the most determined of deal-searches will stand outside all day waiting for a possible buy.
But I am mourning the social and educational loss for the community. I think of all the people Martin knows that he met standing next to an item for sale. The diversity of age and experience and knowledge, people he never would have met if not there. People he trades parts with, or a bit of information, hires to do work, recommends to others . . . they are all part of a rich storehouse of relationships. Auctions are a key resource in a rural community.
What about the old-timers and locals who come like it’s a reunion or family picnic, not to bid, but to reminisce about storms and crops and people now dead. — excerpt, Turn Here Sweet Corn, Atina Diffley
Now, with only an on-line auction there is no way of knowing whom one is bidding against and the community is further weakened. The rich web of relationships in a community meant that if someone you knew wanted or needed an item more then you, you checked in. How bad do I need it? And checked out—letting them have the bid.
Anther common practice is splitting the item with a neighbor who needs it. Many a time Martin has come home with part of a field digger or implement because it was “shared” with an auction friend.
Martin’s father, Tom the barber, drew this carton of an auction when he was a boy in the 1920s. The interface of the Irish and German immigrants in Rosemount is evident. The auction was a common ground, a meeting place, a community connection.
I have to question if replacing the live auction online is an “appropriate” use of technology. And then there are the people in their trailer kitchens who sell hot dogs and bratwurst and coffee. One less gig for them . . .
© Atina Diffley 2012