Going Once: A Live Country Auction in North Georgia

Wonder what it’s like to go to a live auction? Do you picture elegant antiques, a charming British auctioneer with a gavel and an audience of rich bidders with paddles? Think again. A country auction in North Georgia is the exact opposite. In a good way.

Live Auction Tonight

“There’s a country auction tomorrow night. Interested?” The text was a simple invitation from my sister-in-law. “Interested?”

She had me at country.

Other people’s crap delights me. Participating in an auction to obtain said crap? In Georgia? Deep in the mountains of north Georgia?

We were going to a Southern style crap sale! I clapped my hands and did a little dance.

If there’s not a country music song about that, someone should write one!

Living like a Local in North Georgia

While visiting our family in the mountains north of Atlanta, I’d learned a few things.

First, to sit in a rocker on a cabin porch and watch the mist settle on the Blue Ridge Mountains is a glorious experience.

Second, there is a weed in North Georgia that will consume you, your car and your home if you stay still for too long.

And, finally, there’s some good eating in them thar hills.

Read More: “Kud-ZUUU!!! Gesundheit.”

Fried Pies

I experienced the sweetly delicious beauty of fried pies at Mercier Orchards. That may mean nothing to you. It didn’t to me, the first time. Remember those Hostess fruit pies in the white wrappers? Cardboard, compared to a Mercier. Stuffed with actual fruit, not canned conserve, sealed with a perfect sugar glaze and warmed by a loving oven, a fried pie, particularly a Georgia peach fried pie, is an exquisite handful of sweet.

Mercier Orchards fried pie
You’ll never forget your first bite of a Georgia peach fried pie. Photo: Cathy Bennett Kopf/The Open Suitcase

Georgia BBQ

If you’ve got a fried pie in one hand, add a pulled pork sandwich from Georgia Boys to your other hand. They have a tidy menu that includes Brunswick stew. I’ve heard it’s good. I wouldn’t know. I always order a pulled pork sandwich. When I rolled in last week, the cashier assured me their service was quick. I perched on a stool, sweating due to anticipation and the 90 degree heat. When they called the number before mine, I leaped up, knowing I was next. Grabbing the to-go container a bit impolitely, I scarfed down the sandwich in the car. My daughter was horrified.

Auction Expectations

If you’re like me, you’ve developed a mental image of a live auction. Mine is set in one of the great, elegant auction houses like Sotheby’s or Christie’s. A well-heeled crowd demurely raises bid paddles as each priceless antique is presented by a tuxedoed auctioneer. A crack of the gavel concludes each round, as treasure after treasure is sold for thousands of dollars.

I knew my auction experience was going to be different.

Saturday Night Auction Fever

The auction was THE thing to do in McCaysville that Saturday night. Pickups lined the streets. My compact rental car was intimidated. After providing basic address information and proof of identity, we were each given our unique bidding number. The live auction was already underway and seats were scarce. We wedged ourselves between a circulating fan and some braided rugs.

Auction assistants hoisted the merchandise in the air for the throng to inspect, preening like unattractive boxing ring girls. Auctioneer Billy Deal (real name), perched above the fray in  a second story booth and verbally assaulted the crowd, JUST LIKE ON TV. I like it when life imitates TV. It makes me think that writers sometimes pay attention to the details.

Providing a brief description of the item, he’d open the bidding by suggesting a price that no one ever pounced on. And then hopefully, sometimes desperately, he’d lower the number until a bidder was hooked. Then the action really started.

The assistants identified the interested parties and tried to keep them in the game, pointing, pleading, praying, in a frenzied effort to raise the price. After a half hour or so, my heart was racing. It was similar to the feeling I get in a casino when I know I’m one blackjack hand away from paradise. Or hell.

exterior of store with junk outside
A selection of the fine merchandise to be auctioned off that evening. One man’s junk…Photo: Cathy Bennett Kopf/The Open Suitcase

The Object of My Affection

I wanted to play this game. What would I bid on? Art glass? Washboards? A raccoon?

This was no ordinary raccoon. Mounted on a tree limb, the raccoon was staged like he was just about to do what raccoons do – pounce on garbage cans.

No. He was more regal than that, resembling an exhibit in the American Museum of Natural History. And I wanted him. But so did everyone else. Rocky’s price quickly escalated from 1 to 2, then 3 hundred dollars. My sister-in-law and I exchanged glances of disbelief. At $350, the auctioneer pointed to a gentleman on our left and hollered “SOLD!”

“Seriously?” Lynn said a bit too loudly. The man behind her tapped her shoulder and stated indignantly, “That’s a great price. Don’t you know it costs at least $300 to get one mounted.” Lynn deadpanned, “I wouldn’t know.  I’ve never mounted a raccoon.”

That’s what she said.

We stayed a couple of hours. I would have stayed longer, but my daughter lost interest after I refused to bid on a Lionel-Porter chemistry set. She did not buy my explanation that it certainly would not pass muster with the TSA on our return flight. I almost went for an oak hatstand that purportedly came from a southern Georgia home of distinction. We were convinced that the brass hooks and candelabras were worth more than the final $400 sale price. However, it would probably cost just as much to transport it back to New York.

A trip to a local live auction, maybe George Cole’s in Red Hook, is definitely on my summer agenda. I’ll know to bring the pickup truck. And, if I’m lucky enough to find another raccoon, he gets to ride shotgun.