Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Bidding at a Farmer's Auction

Tonight's adventure was absolutely THRILLING. That is not to say that the sad events of earlier were not weighing upon my mind the entire time -- because they were. But I already wrote about that (and will probably write more about it later), so for now I shall just tell you why this evening was so much fun!

I've been searching for a pure white dove for about a month now, but unfortunately all the pet stores in my area just don't stock them. Even the special ordering that I tried to pursue went nowhere. Maybe they've all gone "POOF!" out of the stores, thanks to a handful of local magicians who need their fine feathered assistants or something. In any case, my search was proving to be fruitless.

Then today I encountered my friend Shawn online who was on his way to Adoration. He generously asked what it was for me that he could pray. I asked if he would pray for me to be "pure of heart so that I shall see God" and also that I would like to love a little white dove, please. He laughed and replied, "To be pure of heart and to find a white dove? How could God resist THAT request?" I hoped that he was right.

Before leaving for Root's Farmer's Market (which is only open on Tuesdays), I called to confirm that the evening's livestock auction would not be until 6 PM. Incorrect, I was told. The auction already began at 5, and--as the evening continued--it was not until about 7:30 that Jesse and I were there. Goodness, we were two-and-a-half hours late; would there be much of anything left?

The livestock auction center was a lively place, bubbling with excitement. Baby guinea pigs were squealing, big geese were honking, baby chicks were peeping, pigeons were cooing, and bunnies were merely wiggling their noses. Huge, noisy utility fans were keeping the barn cool, blowing several pillow cases worth of feathers around the room. A hundred pair of animal eyes were peering out of crates, boxes, and cartons. It felt like Noah's ark. And didn't Noah have a pair doves on his boat? :-)

We figured we could ask around. The people there were mostly Amish men, serious bidders who had been watching all afternoon. Their expressionless faces flexed only for their head's slight nod or shake to indicate to the fast-talking auctioneer if 60 cents per baby chicken (in a box of 25) was worth it.

I stuck out in the crowd like a goose misplaced in a box with baby chicks. I was a woman, I wasn't a farmer, I wasn't plain, and my huge smile wasn't hiding that I was over zealous with excitement. With sympathy, an old man helped me out, pointing to the little house a few yards over where I was to register for a bidding number by showing them my license.

I returned a few minutes later, proudly clutching a card with the number "520" printed on it, my hands clammy with excitement. Jesse was a such a great help. He was peering into every small cardboard box that he could, reading every scratched-on label that was legible.

Then, finally: "LISA!! There's two doves! Right here in this Tropicanna box!!"

Hooray! And they were ADORABLE. They were sweet, precious, frightened little beings with pure white plumage, and I couldn't wait to take them home. But I had to win the auction first!

The men that worked the auction were very good at pushing the boxes quickly down the conveyor belt, selling them, and rapidly moving on to the next item. In an hour, I saw about 3 full farms' worth of animals parade through and find new owners.

I encouraged Jesse to leave me there and go find himself something to eat, and so he was gone for 10 minutes. But when he returned, he came a'yellin'!

"LISA!! Didn't you hear that?! He just announced 'two white doves' and they're bidding on them NOW!!"

If Jesse weren't holding his French fries, he would have surely grabbed my arm and threw it up into the air. But we were too late. I had MISSED IT! I missed the auction! The auctioneer was talking too fast and I certainly didn't recognize the box as the Tropicanna one we had seen before! The auction closed at $2.50 per bird, and my little heart was deflated.

But the young Mennonite guy who was loading the boxes onto the conveyor belt saw my expression. He snapped his fingers to get my attention and pointed to a nondescript cardboard box, second from the end. I took his cue and silently vowed not to let my eyes wander from that box. Without seeing, I would have to trust him that what my heart desired really was inside.

As the box rode slowly down the conveyor, the large, beefy men (who sat on the benches reserved for even more serious bidders and whose card numbers were less than 100) would roughly grab the box and tilt it to the side, eager to see what sort of poultry was inside. Most grunted with dissatisfaction, wanting only big egg-layers like the red hen chicks that were coming up soon. Jesse had strategically placed himself on the opposite side of the room now, positioning himself within eye-shot of me so that he could alert me when it was time.

Finally, my box was up -- and so was my heart rate. The bidding opened with an unforeseen gesture from one of the men on the bench. Ack!! But my hand was already up in the air, acting on its own, proudly displaying that "520" of mine. The auctioneer quickly went back and forth between us, pointing at us as he went. The whole room watched as we duked it out. The price steadily climbed up and past the $2.50 per dove that sold a moment ago. It was the second and LAST box of doves, and we were up to $9.50 now, a price that was--in the last 30 minutes--the highest price offered for a bird. Was the farmer going to bid $10?

I couldn''t see his faint expression, of course, but the auctioneer did. And when he yelled "SOLD!" and pointed to me, my nervous face broke a smile and my forehead heated over in what I knew had to be a red blush. I ran to the end of conveyor belt like I had just won the lottery. When the man handed me the box, he declared that I was the happiest winning bidder that he had EVER SEEN at the auction. HAHAHA!

In my joy, I wanted to hug just about everyone there at Root's but figured I should probably just let it out on Jesse. Our friend Jose arrived shortly thereafter, my friend Brooke spontaneously arrived with her kids a moment later, and the rest of tonight was a happy blur of events, mixed with the occasional loose feather. Back at his house, Jesse Google-searched doves for me and sent me home armed with how-to paperwork.

A few neat little factoids I learned:

1. The species I have is commonly called the Scared White Dove or the Turtle Dove. Yes, they're the precise kind from the "12 Days of Christmas" song!

2. As we know, the white dove is a symbol of peace, love, and the Holy Spirit. Their placid, docile personalities no doubt have won them this honor.

3. A pair of these white turtledoves are what Mary and Joseph brought as an offering when they presented Jesus in the temple. (Luke Chapter 2, Verse 24.) If doves were good enough to satisfy God, they are good enough for me! :-)

4. Embracing Christian values, these doves MATE FOR LIFE (or until a spouse is deceased).

5. But don't worry about the eggs being fertilized. They are bashful, gentle creatures who won't breed unless they are given privacy and nesting materials to start a family. (My doves will be staying celibate. Tee-hee!)

6. This kind of dove has been domesticated since the time of Christ. In fact, their natural habitat is ONLY in captivity now. Releasing them into the wild would be like "releasing" them to their death in The Giver.

All this was --dare I say-- a peaceful ending to what started as a very sad day. I got blessed with TWO peaceful doves instead of one. Please, if you have any name suggestions, please post them with your comment!

Jesse recommended that we bid for a partridge in a pear tree next Tuesday. Haha! ;-)