|DID GHOSTLY IMAGES HAUNT THE AUCTION?|
Bob Weaver 1996
The largest crowd ever in the Village of Hur, according to some oldtimers, came at the grand finale auction of the McCoy estate on July 20, 1996, ending 100 years of the family's presence at the McCoy Store.
Everett, Cleo, Harley and Scottie McCoy's servitude had ended. Scottie, the last storekeeper, seemed proud to call herself an "old maid."
Hundreds crowded into the tiny bygone hamlet, cars parking down Hur Hill to Slider Fork and up East Hur Hill toward Pine Creek.
Bargain hunters and dealers from far away places scarfed up antique artifacts, old clothing, signs, family portraits, furniture, glassware and tools, which lasted well into the evening until the last nail was sold.
Only prominent deaths and funerals in days gone by could generate such a stirring in Hur, although not a person could recall such a death.
A loss of sense and sanity appeared to infect the bidders in mid-morning as they simmered in the hot summer sun, paying enormous prices for barely recognizable objects that had been dug out of the store, chick coup and privy.
The bidders blood increasingly boiled over things rusted, stained, dust covered, broken and soiled. Prices sailed above street value, a buyers utopia filled with inflated dreams, imagined wealth and envious competition.
Their voices took on a bitter edge, rising in pitch and volume, intense and mean. An elderly man and woman standing next to me started blaming the dealers for such high prices, failing to recognize the Insanity Principle which oozes through many auctions.
The principle is simply to out-bid the other guy, no matter what.
It was then that I bought a miter box, obviously dipped in precious metal, "brought to West Virginia by Morgan Morgan
and on West by Daniel Boone," but lost the bid on Scottie's keepsake chest which went for $350. I had plans on building a small glass case with light to house.
, then to invite neighbors and friends for a first viewing.
The frenzy continued to build until the afternoon darkness settled over the village. Dianne, my wife, jabbed me in the ribs and said she had a strange feeling and demanded to know what was happening.
Then, the auctioneers voice started to break, uttering confusing comments about the price of turnips, or something. A ghostly and eerie silence fell over the crowd, faces looking anxious and paranoid. The PA system went dead and one woman from Five Forks fainted.
Dianne leaned forward, adjusting her glasses, squinting for a clearer view of the figure of a small woman with short hair, wearing a gray shirt and tattered gray work pants. I could barely see her form as it drifted across the auctioneer's stage, her large glasses prominent and small mouth talking rapidly.
We thought we heard her ask, "What are you doing with mother's things?"
Her arms swung wildly away from her body like she was shooing chickens. The auctioneer froze as she went by him. Those who could see and hear her said that she was demanding everyone leave, get off the property and go home.
The auctioneer later said her outcry was riddled with worn words from lumber camps and saloons, common in less refined times.
Feeling her presence, I felt compelled to speak to her, for it was obvious before us was the ghostly spirit of Scottie McCoy making one last pass over her life time abode of eighty some years, never having left Hur for greater places and times like most of us.
"I'm sorry, Scottie that we have come here today to take away your memories and treasures. You worked so hard and so long for them, quilting, hoeing, mowing, feeding and cooking, not to mention your taking over the store after Harley died," I said.
"We are really flawed here on earth. You must know that now. Some of us always talked about your flaws. But we do things like that. Maybe you can forgive us for fighting over your old hope chest and doll babies."
I was told by Dianne that she yelled an average bad word at me and said, ""OK! OK! You will learn your lessons someday Robert. All of you will!"
Those who could still see her misty form said she picked up a hoe with one hand and her wooden stick with another and quietly eased away from the crowd up the hill to the pile of chimney stones that still marked her home place, fading, fading away.
The crowd surged to life again with noise and excitement, like nothing ever happened. Scottie's large glass yard frog went on the block. I told Dianne I must have it, at any cost. I would go for it, full hog, up to $50. "You don't need it," she said. "I do! I do!." Forty seconds later the bid reached $327, and I was an auction loser, full of failure and defeat.
We cashed in our chips and paid our bill, stashing our auction goodies in the car. I looked up the hill, the direction Scottie faded,
and in my most quiet voice I asked, "Am I learning any lessons yet, Scottie?" It was a silent answer as we drove down the hill from our fading village, toting our small treasures.
A few evenings later I drove over to Hur proper and the old store building and parked. It was vacant and bare. It seemed like a ghostly spot, recalling my many visits to the store in my childhood, marveling at those comings and goings these past hundred years. How much did they matter?
For those of us with a sense of people and place, maybe a great deal, with memories of sound moments and laborious times.
It was then I glanced out my side window and for a brief second I thought I could see the tiny, shrunken figure of Scottie McCoy, ravaged down by cancer, sitting in the store window in her broken oak chair, peering down Hur Hill, waiting for a customer to stop by and sit a spell.