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Attending auctions can be fun, profitable

Life in the country has its rewards and disadvantages. When my husband gained employment in Rochester shortly after the demise of the steel industry in Buffalo, we faced unpredictable challenges. Coming from Williamsville, the move to Wyoming County replicated "Green Acres" and provided me endless lessons in ennui. Deer, turkeys, tractors, feed corn, manure wagons, mud, insects and white-outs on Route 238 seemed to proliferate.

We purchased five acres of undeveloped land on Wethersfield Road near Green Bay Road, the highest elevation point in the county. High winds and even higher snow drifts prevailed.

Given a piece of paper, I drew the plans for the two-story stucco and rough-cut wood house, which we built together. Later we added a full-sized deck to ponder the abundant wildlife and the 200 pine trees we planted to help break the wind. We drilled a well, which produced the freshest water. A creek rambled to the east (complete with mink trappers), and our hand-crafted octagonal cabin with a loft to the south provided lodging for guests. We even had a homemade Heathkit television set on which to watch "Love Boat" and "St. Elsewhere." A fireplace in the living room and pot belly stoves in the kitchen and the cabin were "de rigueur."

We shared our 1976 Pontiac Ventura, so in order to meet our financial obligations (long-haired hippies with children, a mortgage and a basset hound), we attended a plethora of auctions on weekends and resold our treasures on Sundays. With no budget for high-end adventure, we bid primarily on box lots and scavenged low interest and uncanny objects. Our expertise derived from a combined sense of creativity, chance and desperation.

One evening in Dansville, my husband held the closing bid of $10 on a rusty costumer made from 150 welded horseshoes. Later, after a coat of Naval Jelly and a wire brush scrubbing, we sold that piece of Americana for $300.

In Freedom, we bought a stack of shabby old quilts, boxes of appliances, a slide projector and slide trays for $15. When we returned home we discovered the slide trays were actually a sanctuary for a rare, pristine coin collection, which included a graphically scary coin of Hitler. We made great haste to a dealer, then calculated the profits.

At yet another auction in Warsaw, from a crumbling outbuilding, several pie safes were up for sale. I eyed one in newer condition. Unbeknownst to all, after our final bid of $25, we learned it was an heirloom jelly cupboard maintaining its original mustard paint. We hauled it over our heads to tie to the roof of the Ventura while men made offers to buy it back.

For years, it protected my 1963 24 carat gold Hyde Park Wedgewood china service for 10 and a collection of first edition cookbooks which, back in the day, auctioneers had little interest in. For me those cookbooks became the start of a beautiful friendship.

My husband's favorites were a 1956 red Chevy pickup truck, an 1889 framed German print of Pope Leo XIII, myriad canvas painting collections of monks and a 1955 "taxidermy special" blue marlin from Boca Raton, Fla.

We've since moved back to Williamsville, although my husband still works in Rochester. On many trips down Wethersfield Road we have attempted to peek at our house, 500 feet from the road, but the pine trees we planted have obliterated the view. Such is life.

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Janice Schlau, who lives in Williamsville, has found some real treasures for just a few dollars.