I spent the better part of the morning Saturday before last brushing snow from my eyes at the 44th annual Piggott FFA Farm Sale. We couldn't recall a time prior when it had snowed.
Mr. Magee fired up his auctioneer's truck as strong winds whipped through the fairgrounds. Beside me stood Elizabeth, who wearing insulated pink camouflage from head to toe, more closely resembled a 4-foot bottle of Pepto-Bismol smothered in English ivy than an 11-year old cowgirl. I leaned down to find her ear.
"Look at those farmers sitting in their trucks with the heaters on, Lizzy," I whispered. "Those boys are soft." She nodded emphatically.
"Hon, Lizzy and I are gonna feed cattle and come back," said Uncle Ronnie. "You stayin' or goin'?"
"Stayin'," I blurted, "unless you need me."
"Nah, go on," he smiled. "We'll catch up."
I hurried ahead of Mr. Magee to survey the treasures and chat with friends and strangers alike.
I've long written about the magic I find in this old farm sale. In many respects, there's nothing extraordinary about it. It's a worn fairground with used equipment and rusty items planted in rows like stalks of last year's corn. Each year, the FFA students grill hamburgers and sell ball caps and handmade picnic tables. Each year, when nature calls, folks wait their turn beside one of three porta-potties, although the lines weren't long this time because everyone was bundled like the Michelin Man. One must be in dire straits before stripping down four layers and teetering over a frozen plastic toilet sounds appealing.
And each year, Mr. Magee's familiar voice echoes across the field.
"You write for the Gazette over in Northwest Arkansas, don't ya?" Mr. Magee asked, taking a bite of his burger as he sat beside me in the warmth of the mess hall. "I've got a boy in Fayetteville. He was surprised to open the paper awhile back and read about the sale."
"Yes, sir," I replied, equally surprised when news from the Ozarks reaches the Delta. "Rumor has it, this is your last year as auctioneer. Say it ain't so."
"It's so," he grinned. "Why, I'm 75 years old. It's time."
That afternoon, Uncle Ronnie, Pastor Charles and I were kidding around when a camera crew approached, seeking interviews for a Delta film project. Charles and I quickly volunteered Uncle Ronnie and scampered away before he had a chance to protest.
"What'd they ask you?" we later probed.
"I can't remember their questions," he laughed.
"You remember your answers?"
"Well, I said I wasn't buyin' or sellin' today. They asked why was I here then. I told them it's like a reunion. It's more about the people than the stuff."
And with that, the magic swirled the laughter, handshakes, pats on the back, dreams, despairs, poorly told jokes and tall tales shared that day into a snow globe of memories more palpable than the morning's storm. Mr. Magee, we are forever grateful you waved the wand.
NAN Our Town on 04/19/2018
Print Headline: Snowglobe of memories