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Wait a minute... that's my rake

Jul 6, 2014 Randy Tucker, Staff Writer

q I lent it out and it ended up being sold at an auction.

It's called a capital investment for tax purposes. But in real life it was an opportunity to get up in the world.

I was looking for a ladder.

During my first teaching year beginning in August 1980 my paycheck after taxes was $788 per month. Not much to live on, even in the long-ago era of Reaganomics, but summer offered a chance to augment my income via construction, painting and roofing. That summer I made $3,500 a month doing odd jobs.

I had a Craftsman skill saw, a three-foot level, hand tools and a leather tool belt, but no ladder, and I thought I might be able to get it for $20 or maybe a little less. The ladder was a disappointment. The old farmer who owned it had backed into it with a tractor while it was extended. It was bent severely on one side. It was still usable but hard to raise and lower.

When the bidding started I entered at $10 but quickly left the bidding as two wealthy ranchers started a bidding war on the twisted aluminum tool. I found out later that they shared several miles of fence and were mortal enemies since their teens.

Auctioneers live for this kind of animosity, and the old foes quickly raised the bid to a ridiculous $160 before one of them gave up. I drove back to town, and Peewee loaded the ladder in my truck for me after I paid the $59 for it.

Auctions are strange animals but one of my favorite activities.

They set the value of intangibles. People value coins, artwork, land and livestock based on what the competitive bidding process brings.

But setting value isn't why most people attend auctions.Value has a role, but it's the chance to get something valuable for a fraction of its actual cost that brings most people to the auction site.

Last week's heavy rain across Fremont County put a lot of hay producers in a bad situation, me included. I had only a dozen or so acres down when the rain and hail hit last Thursday. Many of my friends had hundreds of acres in neat windrows waiting to dry when the storm hit.

You have a choice when your hay is wet. You can let it dry naturally, preserving the leaves and hoping that another storm doesn't get it so wet that it molds, or you can use a hay rake and flip the wet underside over to expose it to the sun and wind so the entire mass dries.

Raking hay results in losing some of the alfalfa leaves and is a last resort for many hay producers.

The weather wasn't cooperating last week, and it looked like raking was necessary to get my first cutting to dry.

The summer of 2013 was nearly perfect for hay production. The 2012 season started cold, but it ended well without a lot of rainfall during harvesting.

I have an old traction-driven Oliver rake that can be pulled behind a tractor or a pickup, but I didn't need it the last two years and had almost forgotten that I had lent it to a neighbor. When I contacted him, the saga began.

He didn't have it. He had lent it to another guy, and this guy had gotten in trouble with the law and also owed a lot of money someone in the community.

As part of his sentence, apparently, he had to pay restitution damage he had caused to this other person. Bis best assets were agricultural equipment -- including my Oliver rake, as I found out later.

The rake was auctioned off a couple of weeks ago, unbeknownst to me.

I contacted the auctioneer, found out who had purchased the now-damaged rake. and called the purchaser. His wife answered and took my contact information.

Later that same day. Gary called me back. We had a long, enjoyable talk on the auction process, life in Fremont County in general, and the many people we know in common.

Gary paid $30 for the damaged rake. I offered to pay him the $30 back and come out and bring the rake home. He agreed, and we continued our conversation. At the same auction he purchased some aluminum gated pipe with steel bells, a substantial design. But upon his return with a trailer four of the joints of pipe were missing. That's also one of the risks of auctions. The ne're-do-well types often pick up auctioned items that are not their own and simply walk away with them in the noise and distraction of the ongoing auction activity.

It's hard to walk away with four 40-foot pieces of pipe, but someone did. If you know who, feel free to contact me. That's a bid you can count on.

And the hay? Saturday's sunny skies and 20 mph northwest wind dried it naturally, and it's already in the stack.

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Editor's note: Staff writer Randy Tucker is a retired public-school educator.

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