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Let them eat (expensive) cake

Country Roads

December 5, 2011
Arvid Huisman ( , The Daily Freeman Journal

Folks who know me well will tell you than I am a frugal man. Not a cheapskate, not miserly, not selfish; just careful with money. It may come as a shock, then, to learn that I paid $120 for a cake some 15 years ago.

The Boy Scouts in Creston sponsored an annual cake baking and decorating contest for scouts. After the entries were judged, the cakes were sold at an auction which benefited the scouting program.

For a few years I was asked to serve as one of the judges. Always busy, I usually didn't stay for the auction. One year I did.

The young scouts and their parents were so proud of their cakes. Some were quite creative. The auctioneers Buck Buxton and Darwin West were great guys and had a lot of fun crying the auction.

On this night I bid on a few cakes but when the bidding went past $50 my frugality kicked in. I just couldn't see spending more than that for a cake, even for a worthy cause.

During an intermission, Buck kidded that I would be buying a cake that night. I kidded back that it would have to be a cheap one.

When the sale resumed the county sheriff sat down next to me. John Coulter was a friend and I welcomed his company.

I bid on a few more cakes but got out of the bidding after it hit $50.

On one particular cake, Buck kept looking at me to up the bid and each time I declined.

I saw my sheriff friend reach for his handcuffs and wondered what he was up to. The next thing I knew he had cuffed my left wrist. Sitting on my left, he locked the other cuff on his right wrist.

The next time Buck looked at me to up the bid, the sheriff raised his right hand and my left hand went up with it. Buck took that as a bid.

While I'm frugal, I can take a joke. As the bidding went up a few bucks at a time I figured I might be paying $75 for a cake that night. That was okay; it was for a good cause.

When my involuntary bidding went past $80 I began to worry. Then the bidding went past $90.

I began feeling uncomfortable in the way frugal people do when they realize they are about to spend more money than they care to. The folks sitting around us were enjoying the show.

The sheriff helped me bid the cake past $100 and I tried to look like I was having a good time. When the gavel sounded, I had purchased the cake for $120.

Because of the layout of the room I was unable to see who I was bidding against. Shortly after the bidding ended one of my employees came up and asked, "Why were you bidding against me?"

She was trying to buy her son's cake and some numskull around the corner was bidding up the price. I assured her that I didn't know it was her son's cake and that I didn't know she was the other bidder.

Buck, Darwin, the sheriff and I all had a good laugh and I felt good about helping the Boy Scouts, an excellent organization.

As the sheriff and I were about the leave, a young boy about 5-years-old approached me. Craning his neck he asked innocently, "You didn't want to buy that cake, did you?"

I assured him that it was okay and that I would enjoy the cake. "But that policeman made you buy it, didn't he?" I reassured him that everything was okay.

I mockingly scolded the sheriff for traumatizing the boy, to say nothing of a frugal adult. We left the building and went our separate ways, still friends.

The next day I took the expensive cake to work and shared it with my employees with a large piece going to the mom I had unknowingly bid against.

The distress of spending $120 for a cake was short lived. In fact, I had forgotten about the incident until I learned last week that Buck had passed away. Buck was a great guy and a real asset to the Creston community. I have many fond memories of him.

Buck was also a darned good auctioneer, and not just because he was able to get $120 out of this frugal Dutchman for a cake.



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