lac mahon, la peche, qc.

lac mahon, la peche, qc.
photo by graham law.

Monday, August 17, 2015

when is a loss really a win?

having been the first to view the auction, i had two hours to look everything over pretty carefully. of course, i know nothing about folk art, not really. I just like what i like. what i wanted was a couple of decoys for my cottage, maybe one other item, something that grabbed me. hardly reason enough to drive to napanee, but i did.

i'd never actually gone right into the town while driving by countless times over the years. it's really quite charming, although of course the big box department stores has decimated its core. the downtown had store-fronts boarded up. there was a tavern with emaciated creatures smoking outside, a dollar store, real-estate, insurance and lawyers' offices. i wandered down to the napanee river. in sharp contrast to the main street, there were beautiful large yachts tied up, people eating dinners on-board, waiting to continue on in the morning.

i eventually bedded down in the back seat of my truck in a walmart parking lot near a diesel pusher, a toy hauler and not far from an old vanagon. mosquitoes buzzed me awake periodically and large sixteen-wheelers ran their engines. it was too hot to close my windows and too buggy to leave them open. around two-thirty i went to a tim hortons, pretended to drink coffee while checking emails on my iphone. the usual bored teenagers gathered around an old rusted blue silverado with a red tail-gate. i returned to the walmart for a while, but found myself waiting for the doors of the auction house to open at seven in the morning.

there were plenty of decoys, lots of needlepoint wall-hangings, strange-looking carvings, collages, paper-mâché masks, even a couple of old grave markers. i saw a fish carving that was kinda cute, a silly carving of a farmer being head-butted by a goat. i saw a wall-hanging of flying geese that'd be perfect for one of the bedrooms at my cottage.

the auctioneer had a huge tummy that hung down so far his wide suspenders could barely keep his jeans up. he was slow to begin, but once the bidding started he was quick. he had over three-hundred items to get through. i bought a pair of decoys for less than a hundred bucks and a small carving of madonna for twenty-five. i was ready to leave and the auction had hardly started.

as i packed up my purchases in the box i had just retrieved from a back room, the head-butting goat was up for bids. i heard: "forty-five, forty-five, anyone? i got forty-four, who'll give forty-five?" i put my hand up. i had no hesitation in offering forty-five bucks for that whimsical little piece. it had to be worth forty-five bucks. then i heard: "forty-six hundred, forty-six hundred anyone? i got forty-five, forty-five, who'll give forty-six?" my lower extremities dissolved. i was very close to making a mess in my pants. having spent a sleepless night at a walmart to save a little money, i just offered to pay four-thousand five-hundred dollars for a head-butting goat. i waited. i held my breath. the silence in the room was deafening, and interminable. finally, a tall fellow dressed in black with beads around his neck, a long grey poney-tail and holding a phone to his ear, raised his hand and i was saved.

that carving, in fact, went for six-thousand, seven-hundred smackers. it was the first of the high-end folk art items. the wall-hanging of flying geese went for over twelve-thousand. some items went for twenty-five dollars while others went for as much as twenty-thousand. i had no idea what was the difference. i sat on my hands and observed with humble interest for the rest of the auction.


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