Don't count your pickens before they're packed

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For years I've been searching for that rare bargain - an auction that's so far beyond the boonies that no one else bothers to show up.

I was on the trail again recently, reading the chunk of directions in the ad, as my sister and I crunched along a desolate Ozarks road.

I'd never seen so many orange-sized rocks, and I wondered if I was driving on a shriveled creek bed instead of a county road.

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I could already visualize myself waving my cardboard number "1" at the auctioneer to signal that, yes, I could part with five bucks for that cherry highboy, since it looked pretty well put together with those wooden pegs and all. And, sure, I'd give a buck for that box of dusty tobacky tins wrapped in an old newspaper account of President Lincoln's assassination.

"Don't know what I'll do with 'em," I'd say to the auctioneer, while secretly calculating if the resale value on eBay would cover another semester of college for the son.

A low-dangling branch clawed the top of the pickup. "My gosh, if we broke down out here, our bones would bleach before triple-A could find us," I said to my sister. "No one with half a mind is going to drive clear out here. I can already tell you that we're going to be making two or three trips in this maze to haul back all our goodies."

My sister, and the cow standing in the middle of the road, gave me the same glazed look.

"Don't count on it," one of them said.

Yessirree, this was going to be the day that I'd hit the junker's jubilee jackpot. Finally, it was dollar day for the ol' dumpster diver.

I'd soon be cashin' in on my lifetime of trashin'.

I might even need to go on "The Antiques Roadshow" to ask the experts about one of my finds. What would I wear? I couldn't picture myself cradling a Tiffany vase while wearing third-hand jeans.

"Go north at the next fence post," my sister read the directions. "And it's a quarter-mile down that road."

I checked my watch. "Good. We'll have 10 minutes to look over the merch," I said. "Not that it'll matter, because we're going to be the only ones bidding."

I turned left off that lonesome road. And gasped.

Pickups and cars towing trailers tipped into the ditches on both sides of the road, creating a one-way bridle path down the middle. A U-Haul with California tags was parked catty-cornered in a pasture. You could stuff a forest of old oak furniture in that U-Haul.

It looked like opening day of trout season at Roaring River State Park.

"I guess a few other people found it," my sister said.

As I began the long trek toward the throng of fellow dreamers, I had one more vision.

"Hey, you never know," I said. "Maybe they'll all get tired and leave before the auctioneer gets to the good stuff."

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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