Americans love wrecks. This explains the popularity of demolition derbies, the Three Stooges, professional bull riders, NASCAR and Hollywood marriages.
It also explains why we drive slowly by automobile crashes. We’re disappointed if there isn’t a medical chopper involved, or at least two ambulances and the “Jaws of Life.”
If it weren’t for wrecks, humor columnists, cowboy poets and rodeo photographers would have to find honest work. But there is one catch to our fondness for wrecks: We enjoy them, all right, just as long as they’re happening to someone else.
In the auction business we too have our share of wrecks. When auctioneers and ring men use the term, it can refer to a sale that’s so bad no one will get paid, or the word can refer to disastrous events that occur during a sale.
A typical auction wreck was the time we had a horse sale at an auction market and one of the consignors decided to ride his horse into the auction ring rather than lead it in, like everyone else was doing.
I guess his vision was clouded by the whiskey he’d been drinking and the big feather in the ridiculous cowboy hat he was wearing, because as he rode into the ring, his head clobbered a metal pipe overhead.
It knocked him out cold and held up the sale, as the ring men dragged his body out of there and dunked him in a water trough to revive him.
Then there was the time at a horse sale when a trainer was showing off and decided to stand up on his saddle and twirl his twine like Will Rogers. But something spooked the horse; it crow-hopped and the rider came crashing down and did the splits with his crotch bearing the full brunt of the saddle horn.
All the guys in the crowd let out a collective “OOOWWWW,” but the women seemed to really enjoy the show.
My favorite all-time wreck happened just recently at an auction we were doing for a private school for rich kids. One of the lots was one of those tiny two-seater cars you see on the road nowadays that would fit in the trunk of any pre 1980s Cadillac, and looks like it would be totaled if it hit a good-sized bug.
We often see this at charity auctions – where a dealer will offer a car to a charity and they get to keep everything over his cost. If the car doesn’t reach the floor price, the car doesn’t sell, the charity gets no money and no one knows it.
If the car sells, the car dealer gets some favorable publicity, the buyer gets a good deal and the charity makes a couple hundred bucks. But they’d have made more profit selling a $200 cake!
On this occasion a nutritional overachiever who stood six-foot-four and weighed 300 pounds asked me to refresh his memory by telling him what the floor price was. He knew the deal because he was on the board of directors. I told him $17,000 and he then stood up in front of the room and made exaggerated bids to show he was a big supporter of the school.
But Mr. Big Shot never had any intention of buying the car. I sensed that the car dealer must not have liked Mr. Big Shot, because he waved me over as I was working ring and said, “Since he really wants the car that bad, go ahead and sell the car if you get $16,000.”
Mr. Big Shot thought he was safe in bidding $16,500 because it was under the floor price of $17,000, but much to his chagrin we went ahead and sold him the car. Boy, was he surprised!
The car dealer, who seemed to really be enjoying himself, then asked if we’d get a picture for promotional purposes, with the buyer inside the car. (Wink, wink.) Mr. Big Shot made several attempts to get in the car by himself, but finally we had to resort to brute force, with several of us pushing and shoving the full-figured Mr. Big Shot into the tiny car.
When the picture came out in the newspaper, there was body tissue oozing from every orifice of the car. The tires looked flat and Mr. Big Shot’s frightened face was flattened against the front window. By his countenance, I’d guess he was sitting on the gearshift knob. It was the only good car wreck I’ve ever seen.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Readers may log on to www.LeePittsbooks.com to order any of Lee Pitts’ books. Those with questions or comments for Lee may write to him in care of this publication.