Seeing is believing. Those words never truer until you attend the annual Porter, Minn. Street Sale (which my wife and I did on April 17). Yes indeed, this small Minnesota community (population about 240) swells to overflowing as hundreds flock to Porter for the event. (Porter is located in Yellow Medicine County, about 26 miles northwest of Marshall.)
“We call it our National Holiday,” says Charley Anderson, innocuous Porter Street Sale Manager. His ‘real life’ job is administrative assistant at Sanford Home Health in nearby Canby. I asked Charley if he knew how this ‘national holiday’ came into being? “I don’t really know,” he admitted. “I remember my Dad talking about this when I was just a kid … and that was some 30 years ago.”
What’s the big attraction? Two words explain its continued success: Street Sale. And apparently, there are no restrictions on items for sale. Streets filled with everything imaginable. At a quick glance it seems quite obvious area farmers use the Porter Street Sale as their opportunity to clean out machine sheds of anything/everything no longer needed. Much the same for area residents. The sale features an incredible amount of household furniture, kitchen equipment, kids toys — even lawn and garden stuff … your choice of lawnmowers too.
So what to do? Just start meandering, looking, chatting, even catching a coffee and burger if hungry. I noted three enterprising food and beverage counters with gas-fired grills in action. Plus, Porter has a great coffee/pastry shop too. For me, this Porter Street Sale is a bonanza. So with cell phone camera and Sony recorder I set forth. The temperature was in mid 40’s; weather was cool, cloudy; about perfect for my safari.
My first stop was a young guy with two feather-filled containers on the ground beside him. His name is Kory Tebben and in those two cages at his feet were six guinea hens. He raises about 100 each season for sale, much like broilers for tasty food servings. His asking price was $15 each for a six-pound bird. We didn’t see anyone else offering guineas for sale.
With two auctioneering rigs made up of pickups with PA systems, the auction chanting began at 9 a.m. Eugene Lorenzen Auctioneering Services of Gary, S.D. was conducting the sale. When we left at about 3 p.m. there was still scads left to be sold. The final shutdown was 7 p.m. and I haven’t any idea of how many items were sold. Anderson didn’t know either; but did say it would be three or four days until buyers had picked up all their newly-acquired possessions. Five auctioneers called this 10-hour event. Yes, like any street auction of this magnitude, there were some unsold items. These ‘left overs’ are donated to a local charity.
My next stop was to visit with Harold Kruckman. Harold was sitting with his wife on a cozy-looking sofa. Much to my surprise, The Land was ‘old hat’ to Harold. “Back in about 2001 I was featured talking about a feeder-house dust convertor for a John Deere combine,” he said. I asked if he was buying the sofa they were perched upon. “No, we just parked here for awhile,” Harold confessed. “I’ve been to maybe about 25 of these Porter Street Sales over the years. Don’t always buy something, but this year my wife Diane (still just a two-year rookie) came along also. And she spotted that rusty, four-foot tall metal rooster which she decided would make a great ornament alongside our little chicken house. My wife is the chicken lady in our house.”
Diane added, “I’ve always like chickens. They are like pets. And this metal rooster will be a lawn ornament. We let our chickens out each day; gather them back into their house each night.”
“We’ve a little 3-acre site just outside Montevideo,” Harold explained. “We’re retired farmers, so this is just our miniature farmstead with a few chickens. And now this big rooster too.”
My next visit was with Stan Kruckman, Harold’s 32-year-old son who designs, welds and fabricates whatever his customers have in mind. Today he was just a buyer, but with his metal skills he could be a seller too. “We sell basically word of mouth. And this pandemic hasn’t slowed us down one bit,” said Stan.
A bit further down the street I could hear the auctioneer calling for bids on a typewriter. I was intrigued because a typewriter was my working stock when a younger farm writer (that goes back a few years too). Bill Clark from Tyler, Minn. was the winning bidder. “I have a collection, 10 or 12 as I recall,” Clark said. “My oldest is probably 100 years old. I’ve had Remington’s, IBM’s, Electric 2’s — which was a swanky one.”
I asked Clark what brought him to the Porter Street Sale? “Just hanging out,” he nonchalantly replied. “I’ve been here a couple times before. It’s fun because you never have any idea; but you always know there just might be something that catches your eye.”
And Clark knows about the newspaper business too. He started the Tyler newspaper. “I’ve worked in newspapers in Le Sueur and St. Peter, Minn.; and Sibley, Iowa, so I’ve been around.”
Street sales might be his hobby too. “I was at a street auction in Ceylon, Minn. last week and it was much bigger than this Porter sale … lots more machinery. They started at sunrise and they were still selling at dusk I’m told.”
Still moseying down the street, an Arctic Cat 800 snowmobile was being called. The auctioneer started with a $500 call, but no takers, so he quickly back-peddled down to $200. The winning bid was $250. I had a brief visit with auctioneer Kory Bork. This was his first call. He learned the trade through online studies at Missouri Auctioneering School. “We started at about 9:30 over at the equipment area,” Bork said. “We’ve got five auctioneers here today — three in this ring and two at the other ring. Don’t know what time we’ll wrap up, but we’ll keep calling as long as we have buyers.”
“At a deal like today, if you’re not calling the bidding, you’re working the ring so it’s very much a team effort,” Bork went on to say. “Like about 30 minutes doing the actual calling, then working the ring, picking up bids for the caller. It’s too much for just one auctioneer. Inside the rig is our clerk who really works hard and fast — recording each final bid number and the dollar amount of that final bid. Yes indeed, a genuine team effort is what makes this work.”
It was about time for me to close down also; but hearing lumber prices are skyrocketing, I had just walked up to an assortment of barn sidings and 2-inch thick wood cable wraps with 8-foot circumference — only $5 for the pile. But there were also some 20-foot 2 x 4’s and the new market price was evident: $90 a pile, 10 per pile.
“Attendance varies from year to year,” Anderson admitted earlier. “Last year, because of Covid, we didn’t have a sale. We wondered if that threat might still be a factor. We were down somewhat from previous years, but lots of good reports I’m hearing this year again.”