I had planned to make strawberry jam on a recent Sunday. But when someone told me about a weekly livestock auction out in Clayton, N.C., I set my canning jars aside and took a little field trip with my brother and niece to check it out. I don’t know exactly when I became a guy whose weekend plans would include making a decision between canning jam and watching a tent full of people bid on farm animals, but there are worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon.
At Calamity Jane’s General Store, dozens, if not hundreds, crowd into an adjacent tent each Sunday to bid on all manner of small livestock. Sellers arrive with crates, cages, cardboard boxes, even a laundry basket or two, all full of animals for sale on commission. A young, but clearly experienced auctioneer rattles off the details of each parcel as the containers are opened for presentation. Two young goats are led in. “Fifty-five, fifty-five. Do I have sixty? Sixty, sixty. I have sixty. Do I have sixty-five? Sixty-five, sixty-five. Who will give me seventy? Seventy, seventy, seventy. We have seventy. Seventy, seventy, seventy. Going at seventy. Going at seventy. Sold at seventy!”
The goats are led away and the bidding immediately begins on a broken parakeet cage full of baby chicks, and then a couple of lop-eared rabbits held high over the heads of auction assistants quickly working their way through the varied lots. Bidding is brisk, and hundreds of animals find new homes in just a few hours. Anyone can register to bid.
We weren’t doing any bidding this time, but there were some great looking chickens available. I’m not sure you can count on going home with hens instead of roosters when bidding on chicks or juveniles, but the breeds offered ranged from production birds to the exotic. I recently wrote about the best places to find chickens for your backyard flock. Let’s add livestock auction to the list.
And even if you aren’t in the market, go anyway. It was a lot of fun to watch, and you never know when you might want to impulse-buy a couple of pullets. Or some goats. Maybe a pig. As we left, the bidding was just underway on a one-eared rabbit. I kind of wish we’d stuck around to see how that one turned out.