THE FARMER IN THE DELL
AS we were driving through the wheat country, I saw an automobile drawn by horses. It was a queer sight. Then I saw another automobile, mule-drawn. Then later I saw one pulled by oxen. "What's the matter with the American automobiles? I thought they were good," I said to Mr. Keen.
"There's nothing the matter with the cars. It's the price of the gas."
At the next town we found quite a few automobiles with the motive power tied to hitching posts!
A big crowd was gathered around the court-house. On the steps an officious looking gentleman, in immaculate attire, contrasted strangely with the bedraggled overalls and nondescript garments of the men milling around him. We stepped out of the car to learn what was happening. A few hostile farmers immediately surrounded us.
The man on the steps harangued the crowd: "This piece of property has a mortgage on it of $300," he shouted "The place is worth at least twice that much. Who's going to start off with $300?" Nobody answered -- glances shifted towards us suspiciously. "Come on, gentlemen, we haven't all day! Who'll start it off with a bid of 200? A voice in the crowd called: "I bid one twenty-five." "Ridiculous, ridiculous! This gentleman is bidding hundred twenty-five. This property is a gift at five hundred."
Another voice called: "I bid one fifty." "Come gentlemen, what's the matter with you? Who's next? Any more bids? Don't I hear anyone offer hundred seventy-five? If you don't talk up I've got to sell it, there have been two bids. That makes it a legal sale? Are you all through bidding? Hundred fifty once. Hundred fifty twice. Your last chance! SOLD! The man gets the biggest bargain of his life. The property is sold to this man for a hundred and fifty dollars."
"Hundred fifty dollars? Man, you're crazy! I bid a hundred and fifty cents." A great roar of laughter came from the crowd.
"That's right!" said another. "He only bid one dollar and fifty cents."
"Sure," said the third, "he topped me, I bid a dollar twenty-five. Who the hell living around here would have a hundred and fifty dollars besides yourself and the bankers?"
The man got red in the face. "You can't make a fool out of me! Are you here, Sheriff?" He looked around for protection.
"Look here," said the man who bought the property. "You said two bids make the sale legal. Isn't that so?" He turned to the crowd. "That's right," shouted the men. "Now, if you know what's good for you, that deal is closed!" "You bet it's closed!" shouted several in the crowd, threateningly.
And it seems, that finished the business.