My husband Jim is a connoisseur of – well, stuff! If it can be collected, he will find a place for it. He not only has his original sports memorabilia collection, but also marbles, wooden toys and figurines to name a few. That’s his in-house collection.
His outside collection consists of antique farm equipment and early farm tools that he displays around our yard. One of the places he finds such treasures is at the Topeka Livestock Auction, which is held in Topeka, Indiana, a few times each year. The original purpose was for Amish to buy, sell and trade horses, buggies and other equipment that they still use each day. However, it didn’t take long for collectors to discover the sale, and many antique dealers and store owners now come to see what they can find.
The sale usually runs three or four days with each day designated to sell mainly a certain large item. We like to go the day they sell the “junk” or, as they like to refer to it, as antiques. We are not being unkind by calling it junk because items run the gamut from butter churns, wooden and steel wheels, sausage presses, etc., to scraps of material, bent angle iron, cardboard boxes full of odds and ends – almost anything goes.
The treasures that we have found include old milk cans, wooden carts that are perfect to use as planters, wooden wagon wheels that we fashioned into rails for the deck, and old horse-drawn equipment, to name just a few. The horses are separated according to breed between the barns, and the first building has the snack bar and rows upon rows of used harnesses. The rest of the stuff is lined up in rows outside, in no particular order.
It is not unusual to have five or six auctioneers “crying the auction” at the same time. This makes it particularly difficult if you are by yourself and there is something in a couple different places that you have your eye on. I think this is the sole reason Jim encourages me to go. My job is to watch an item for him while he is bidding on something else. Then I let him know when the auctioneer gets close to the other item he wants. I do not bid, that is a firm rule that we both agree on and live by. Usually I can bet that the thing he wants most will be close to the last item sold.
That’s fine with me. It gives me a chance to watch the people and ponder the day’s events. The Amish here are no different than people anywhere; some are quite friendly and some are rather rude. I can’t help but wonder if they think we are invading a tradition they started primarily for themselves. Most of these items are what they still use every day and they see people coming to buy for the mere pleasure of displaying these items. Ultimately, this drives up the price for them to buy and trade.
As far as Jim and I are concerned, we treasure these items. The last time we went, our prizes were two horse-drawn cultivators that now grace the side of our chicken coop. We consider all these pieces part of our heritage that deserve to be displayed and preserved for future generations.