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Erik and Yvonne Pederson had been on my mind all week.
Yvonne was buried yesterday in her beloved Dry Creek. I had the privilege of delivering her eulogy. I had spoken at her husband’s funeral about ten years ago.
I described her as “A woman with a dazzling smile who lived a rich, rich life.”
Yvonne’s service was full of tears and laughter. She’d lived a full life for eighty-four years. She’d been a wonderful school nurse in Beauregard Parish. The best story of the day came from Jennifer Sanders Dixon, a former East Beauregard student:
The second nurse was Ruth Michaels, Yvonne’s co-worker and special friend.
This recipe was one of Yvonne’s best cakes.
The following story is from The Old House.
A Saddle on a Pig . . . A Mercedes in Dry Creek
They no longer hold farm auctions at Pederson’s Farm House north of Dry Creek on Highway 113. However, in its heyday, no event could draw more people, and provide more fun, than these monthly auctions.
Because the main items offered for bids were farm-related, most of the people in attendance were country people. Any and every item imaginable would be offered for sale. Rumor had it that once an old stray dog wandered by, and they sold it for five dollars. Tractors of all sizes and makes, plows, old school buses, trucks, implements, and ranching tools all could be found at Pederson’s.
And the daddy of this auction was Erik Pederson. Always dressed in his trademark Wrangler jeans and brown khaki shirt, Erik looked the part of a real cowboy. Long, tall, always with a witty word and twinkle in his eye, Erik has always been one of my favorite people in Dry Creek.
Most of the Pederson auction clientele were just like Erik—country men dressed in work clothes. Some came to see what they could pick up for this year’s spring planting; others brought items to sell wanting to see what price they could get. Then others were just there to look around, visit, and escape their wives’ Saturday chores at home.
On the day of this particular auction in 1991, a unique item was brought to Pederson’s farm auction. The day before the auction, two federal agents drove up in a new shiny white Mercedes Benz sports car. This car, confiscated from a convicted drug dealer, was driven into the muddy parking lot at Pederson’s and parked right next to a 1952 Ford Tractor. There the Mercedes sat for bidder inspection, right among all of the farm implements.
One of the agents—non-smiling, wearing dark glasses, and standing there with his arms, stood guard by the driver’s door of the car.
Throughout Saturday morning, a steady stream of people lined up to inspect the Mercedes. The car’s hood, trunk, and doors were opened so potential bidders could get a good look. The sight of this expensive luxury car sitting among rusting equipment reminded me of an old country saying. When someone would see something that looked completely out of place with its environment, the old timers would say, “That’s like putting a saddle on a pig!”
To me, this luxury car being sold in Dry Creek is exactly what the “saddled pig” analogy implies.
As the line stretched longer, it reminded me of a boyhood visit to the State Fair in Shreveport. There, on display was what was purported to be the “death car” of Bonnie and Clyde. A long line of people lined up, paid their dollar, and waited to put their finger in one of the hundreds of bullet holes in the car’s body.
This Mercedes brought out the same interest in everyone here at the auction. Old men, who’d never driven anything that didn’t have “Ford” or “GMC” on the tailgate, sat proudly behind the wheel of the Mercedes. As one man slid behind the wheel onto the plush white leather seat, the federal agent worriedly watched this farmer’s bulging jaw full of tobacco and the brown stain running down his chin.
Country women, who didn’t have enough in their checking account to buy a good brisket at Brookshire’s, stared through the window as if they were figuring their bids and planning to take the Mercedes home tonight. Of course, I was right in there among them gawking.
One farmer was heard to mutter in disgust as he walked off, “Look at the spectacle of all of them staring at that car like a calf at a new gate.”
This line of rural America continued throughout the morning. There was much good humor mixed with the gawking. Occasionally, there stood a lawyer or doctor, probably from Lake Charles or some other big city, lined up with all of the rest of the usual auction crowd. These men, dressed in their crisp white shirts and expensive suits, stood out from among Pederson’s normal customers.
Finally the time for the sale of the Mercedes arrived. Very few of the crowd left early, because everyone wanted to see how much this car would bring. As the crowd circled around, the bidding started. About ten well-dressed men, all strangers, actually took part in the bidding, as everyone else watched.
The opening bid was for $20,000. Way back in the crowd, someone whistled appreciatively. Bid by bid, the price surged upward. Gasps were heard when someone shouted, “$40,000.” Eventually, a doctor from Lafayette bought it for $46,000.
Slowly the large knot of observers walked away in groups or pairs. Many were shaking their heads in wonder at the idea of someone paying twice as much for a car as they’d paid for their home and land.
The rich bidders got in their Mercedes, BMW’s, and Town Cars and went home. Pederson’s normal clients loaded up in their trucks and headed home to Pitkin, or Longville, or maybe LeBlanc. Of course, quite a few of us drove back down the road to our homes in Dry Creek. All had one thing in common—they had been witnesses to a memorable event in Dry Creek—the day they sold a Mercedes at the farm auction.
A few months later, I was in New Orleans riding the streetcar down St. Charles Avenue. We passed Tom Benson’s Mercedes dealership, where row after row of these expensive German-made cars sat. A new one, white just like the one at Pederson’s, pulled out into the street and stopped beside us at the next traffic light.
I glanced around at the other streetcar riders, and no one even seemed to notice the Mercedes except me. I was once again reminded that I live in a place where some things, like Mercedes, are rare.
I also live in a place that is just as interesting and fascinating in its own way as any large city anywhere—a place where so many wonderful things, both funny and inspiring, happen almost daily.
This story comes from Curt Iles’ second short story collection, The Old House.