A Salebarn Visit

Fog was dense in spots as we pulled our stock trailer to Kalona, Iowa early Thursday morning. The white sun ghosted in and out of the haze on our way to the salebarn. We needed to sell this spring’s crop of lambs and goats so we were up before daylight, loaded and ready to go. I hadn’t realized just how many creeks are between my house and Kalona until we hit those areas of hidden highway. Good thing I had something to look forward to which took the nervous edge off the ride.

It’s always fun for me to go to this salebarn. On one end of the parking lot is a line of Amish horse and buggies, giving the area a back in time feel. Amish men work in back, penning up stock, and Amish women run the restaurant. In earlier times, I’d seen more people crowded into the seats. Yesterday most of the few spectators were either buyers or sellers like us.

We took a tour on the catwalks above the stock pens. Not many barns have catwalks. It seems to me to be a good idea. If buyers are interested in the stock, walking above the action keeps them from getting in the handlers way as they pen up the stock that’s unloaded.

Inside the selling arena, seating was a horseshoe shaped area. We sat in the top row of wooden seats which just happened to have thin padding on them. Believe me, after a couple hours that padding was appreciated. Some of the spectators were Amish men and one small boy, learning the ins and outs of a salebarn already. One Amish man bought two large white buck sheep. I wonder how he got those sheep back to his farm. They wouldn’t have fit in his buggy.

We used to go to salebarns a lot to sell animals and to buy sometimes. Regulars came all the time. We knew quite a few people we enjoyed sitting and talking about everything under the sun between bids. But times have changed. Not all salebarns handle sheep and goats in my area nor hogs for that matter with the large confinement buildings in use now. Large farmers are only crop growers now. Kalona is one of the few that still sells all livestock. With the Amish being diversified and the rest of us coming from miles around, the salebarn is still in business. My thought is that I should have my Amish farmer in my next book go to a salebarn. Give readers a sample of what happens there.

A little after eleven, my husband suggested we make a dash for the restaurant before the sheep and goats finished selling. The U shaped counter has swivel seats around it that doesn’t hold a large number of people. There was three young Amish women working. They looked to be in late teens or around twenty. The waitress was so personable. I could tell she had been meeting the public for awhile. She called a lot of the men by first names and was teased by some. She even told one man he was a mess, and she laughed all the way to the kitchen.

The restaurant was lent a bit of Amish wisdom by the sayings posted on the menu board, the ice cream cooler and the wall. "Life is for living, not waiting around." "You are only as happy as you allow yourself to be." "Jesus loves you" and The Lord is my shepherd."

I love that first saying on the bottom of the menu board where every customer had to see it. "Life is for living, not for waiting around". The Amish may look plain in dress and manner. They may prefer life to be simple, but are living life to the fullest and their way. I wonder if the Amish philosopher who came up with that saying ever read David Thoreau, poet, author and philosopher. He said just about the same thing when he said, "When it’s time to die, let’s not discover we never lived."

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Of course, the meal was delicious and large portions of meatloaf, mash potatoes, gravy and peas with a large slice of homemade bread warming on top the peas. Even after scarfing down that much food, we still couldn’t leave until we had a piece of Coconut Cream Pie. It was delicious but not quite the pie we used to buy there. Years ago, the pies were capped with an inch of meringue. Now the pies have an inch of cool whip. Looks like a little of our English influences might be rubbing off on the Amish after all.

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