Monday, September 17, 2012

A Country Auction

Country Auction, 2012
(Click on images to see larger)

Sometimes when I don’t have a specific photographic destination in mind, I look at a map and pick the name of some small town I don’t know anything about and head in its direction. The actual town isn’t important. I might take pictures there or now. It’s merely a random starting point for the day.
The name I drew this past Saturday while out in the Roanoke Valley was Hardy, Virginia. On the map it appears to be a small village in rural Franklin County. In reality, it’s barely a “wide place in the road,” as we say in our family. There’s no village to speak of, but there is an old steel bridge across the Roanoke River with boat launch sites on both ends.
I hung around the public boat landing long enough to determine that there wasn’t much to see there and then took off to see what else Franklin County had to offer. I drove along country roads that twist and turn and rise and fall along river bluffs in the Blue Ridge foothills and it was in doing this that I came across the auction shown above.
I didn’t want to stop at first. I immediately saw the photographic potential of this gathering of country folk. But I was wary of being the unknown guy who walks into the crowd with nothing more than a smile and a camera. So I drove on. It bugged me, though, that I’d let the opportunity pass, so much so that after meandering ten or fifteen more miles down the road I turned around and made my way back to the auction.
I was still a little wary. I didn’t want to be the guy who was mining the photographic potential of some farming family’s misfortune. But it turned out that the field of debris—and that’s about all the credit you could give most of it—had belonged to a recently deceased man. He’d lived with his wife in the little hardscrabble bungalow just off the road. She’s still there.
Country Auction, 2012

The deceased was one of those guys who didn’t buy just one of a thing when he could buy a whole case of it. The side yard where the auction took place was full of cartons of oil, transmission fluid, plastic irrigation nozzles, furniture, tools of all kinds (dozens of each, most never used), tillers, old pumps, a tractor, feed tubs, lumber, two automobiles completely covered in vegetation and a pickup truck camper shell that looked like it had most recently been occupied by a pack of badgers. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
I can’t imagine the auction brought much to the widow other than the joy of getting rid of a lot of stuff she’d probably been after her husband for decades to take to the dump.  Much of it was too worn to use or rotted from never have been used. Most of the lots sold for just a few dollars.

Checking Out the Merch, 2012

Perhaps most perplexing in this field of debris was the collection of saddles, bridle hardware and other horse supplies, most of them in brand new condition. There was no barn on the property and no sign of horses. One of the neighbors explained, “He didn’t have no property to speak of, and he only had two horses in his whole lifetime. One died of a broken neck. He got another it took a virus. He was so heartbroke after that he just couldn’t part with none of that stuff.”
A Good Deal on a Crown Vic, 2012


  1. So don't leave us were you received? As the gawking outlander mocking the yokels? Or did you fit right in?

  2. Wow--you really captured these folks. I could really imagine all this from your photos and descriptions. Reminds me of living in the Shenandoah Valley, and brings back fond memories.