Stock trailers are an item that shows up at farm auctions in country where people raise livestock. However, if it's a consignment auction, like the Benton Central FFA consignment auction held near Fowler a week ago Saturday, the trailers there to purchase often are slightly used.
OK, they're a lot used. If you're lucky, the manure has been cleaned out. Two were in the same line a few items apart to be sold, and a farmer was interested in buying one. He is a cattleman and has farms several miles apart. He has a good trailer, but was looking for a second one just to move cattle from one farm to the other, so he didn't have to put so much wear and tear on his main trailer.
As he looked them over, a kindly looking old gentleman soon struck up a conversation. It went something like this.
"That trailer down the line has a bent axle- you saw that didn't you?" he said.
"Well, know, I didn't get underneath and look," the farmer said. "Things looked OK on top. It looked like they had hit something with the rear fender, but that's just cosmetic. That could be fixed."
"Nope, the right front axle was bent sure as can be," the old gentleman continues. "Why, someone who doesn't know that could run a tire right off of it. That would have to be fixed, and they're expensive."
Then he turned to the black bumper hitch trailer he was leaning on. My friend had already looked at it. And while it was free from manure now and the wood floor was solid, apparently someone had let manure linger around the edges for more than a day or two. You could see daylight almost all the way around at the bottom where the trailer joins the wooden floor. The metal was rusted so thin that it was rusted through in spots.
"I'm fixing up one of these right now," the old guy said. "Why, I didn't realize steel was so expensive. I went down to pay me bill at the shop, and I couldn't believe what I owed them. By the time I get it painted and the lights fixed, I'll have more in it than I could have bought a new one for."
"Yeah, steel sure is expensive," the farmer agreed.
Then it dawned on him. If this old guy was already fixing up a trailer, why was he looking at these two so closely? And if he was already putting more into one than it was worth, why might he want another? Was he talking with a straight tongue, or hoping to ward off the competition and get one cheaper?
The mystery will remain. Both sold for about $700 each. The farmer quit looking once they hit $300. And the old guy had disappeared into the crowd. But it did bring back memories of the stories that used to circulate about veteran tractor buyers who would go to implement auctions, and pour coffee onto the block of a used tractor they wanted to bid on when no one was looking. Then the next interested party could either assume it was oil, or take a risk, take a swipe and taste it. Supposedly that trick has been used more than once.
It's 'heads up' time at an auction!