A Fine Piece of Iron

It was a cold blustery day in March of 1914; Peter Anderson rode in the passenger seat of his new Buick touring car. Pete as every one called him, felt on top of the world, warm as toast behind the side curtains, sitting on a soft upholstered seat wrapped in his raccoon coat.

His mind slipped back to Sweden and the cold work with inadequate clothes and never enough to eat. Worse than that was the feeling of being nothing of no chance to ever get ahead. He had tried for the first 24 years of his life and could still carry everything he owned on his back.

Contrast that to the 34 years he had been in this country, 360 acres of rich Minnesota farm land, three sons, two married and property owners and four daughters, two well married.

His youngest son George steered the automobile up the driveway of the farm where a neighbor was having his retirement auction today. Pete directed his son to a spot on the edge of the farmstead where all would see him and his new car.

Pete made his way to the hay wagon where a crowd was gathered as the auctioneer was preparing to start the sale. He greeted everybody enthusiastically in Swedish or English mixed with Swedish or even a word of Dutch or German.

The auctioneer had already started introducing the owner, the clerk, and his helper and stating the terms of the auction. There were no Auction numbers, everybody knew everybody here, and the auctioneer could call everyone by name and probably name their wives too.

The Clerk who worked at the local bank had more information in his head than in any credit report and if their was a stranger in the crowd he or a friend had already visited enough to get the basic information.

The cold was sinking in and the crowd was restless when the auctioneer started with the traditional shovel and old hayfork. They sold for a quarter and the auctioneer started his song with a new hayfork but the bid came slow and again only one bid for a quarter.

The helper picked up a 16 foot long steel shaft, it was ¾ inch diameter with a keyway cut in each end it probably cost the owner several dollars when purchased new.

Again the auctioneer started his song but no one bid, it was a bad sign, worse the crowd was visiting between them selves. He had to do something, so he stopped and caught the eye of a farmer in the front row. “Ole” he said, “you got a quarter in your pocket”, the crowd had gone silent, but instead of the ya that he expected he got silence. This was bad, he could lose the crowds interest and he realized he had picked on a wealthy but very thrifty old man. Something had to be done fast, he looked quickly around and spotted Peter Anderson,”Pete you have a quarter in your pocket to help me out”. “Ya sure” came the reply followed in Swedish by “like some people I’m not too cheap to spend it’.

The crowd roared with laughter at ole’s expense, the auctioneer started his song but before he had two words out Ole said 35 cents, I’ve got 35 any one have 40, sang the auctioneer, again in a loud clear voice Pete called, no but I’ve got 50 cents. The crowd loved it; this was a contest of social states. Again the auctioneer started and Ole thriftiness showed through and he nodded his head to 60 cents. The auctioneer sang I’ve got 60 any one have 65. Once again in a loud clear voice came 75 cents. The crowd laughed again, Ole lowered his head he and everybody knew that no mater what he bid that Pete would out bid him. The auctioneer knowing that the show was about over called once more and said, “sold to Peter Anderson”, and added, “will that fit in your new Buick”. “You betcha”, came the reply, “if you buy a decent car you can haul what ever you want”

This was a vailed reference to Ole’s Model T ford, the crowd roared again with laughter and Ole’s face turned a little red. Pete not wanting to end a friendship called to Ole in Swedish, “let me buy you coffee and a little lunch and we will let these young men buy things they have a use for”.

The two walked off together as the auctioneer started again with the crowd in a good mood and the bids coming rapidly.

The next morning Pete was up early, he cut 4 small forks from boxelder branches, cutting one side flat and nailing them high on the wall studs in the shed attached to the Granary.

The pounding had attracted the attention of Carl, Pete’s son who ran the farm; He came into the shed just as Pete hung up the shaft. What’s that for was the unspoken question, as he watched silently. Pete turned to him saying, ” isn’t that a fine shaft it will surly come in handy around the farm, look at that 16 feet long and straight as an arrow.

Carl turned and walked away nodding his head in agreement, not because he agreed but because he didn’t have the time or the heart for an argument with his Father.

The shaft hung for years on those wood hooks, shorter pieces of the shaft could have been used but it would have been a shame cut that fine 16-foot shaft.

Carl married moved to his own farm, George married and took over the farm, Pete bought an adjoining farm built a grand new house for himself and his daughter Mary and her family and still the shaft hung on the wall of the shed.

Some 65 years later George’s youngest son had purchased the farm and his wife and George’s youngest Daughter are having a garage sale in the new pole barn on the farm.

George stands patiently watching as they discuss how they’re going to make a rack to hang the clothing on. Just hang a long bar on ropes from the rafters he suggests, perfect they agree but where do we find such a bar.

George smiles says come with me, they walk to the shed, and he points to that 16 foot ¾ inch shaft hanging where Grandfather Peter had placed it almost 65 years before.

Pete said it would come in handy someday.

The shaft still hangs in my pole barn, over 90 years after it was purchased by my Grandfather. Will I ever use it for anything? I don’t really know.

I do know that even though I was born years after my Grandfather died and I only have a few pictures and the stories I was told, I think of him every time I see that 16 foot ¾ inch shaft, it’s a fine piece of iron.

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