"Sixty-two and a half, who'll give sixty-three? Will ya say sixty-three? SOLD for sixty-two and a half!" blared the words of the auctioneer over the loudspeaker. Bridgette turned around against the wall of old worn boards and buried her face in her hands. I tried to put my arm on my daughter's shoulder to console her. When she looked up, I could see tears streaming down her cheeks from her big brown eyes.
"I only got barely a hundred dollars for my lambs, Dad," she mumbled. "I won't have enough money for the school clothes I had picked out." She tried to hide her face in her arms so the other people around wouldn't see her crying.
We were at Woody's Auction just east of Woodland, Washington. It was late August, just before the school year started. Bridgette, 11 years old, was going into the sixth grade in just a few days. Back in April we had bought two newborn lambs for her to raise. Bridgette's plan was to raise them during the summer and then sell them, using the money for school clothes.
The lamb market had been good for a month, with most butcher-ready lambs bringing almost a dollar per pound. The lambs were 100 pounds each the morning we loaded them in the trailer behind the minivan and drove to Woody's. Bridgette had figured out exactly how to spend her anticipated $200 on the clothes she wanted for school. It would be just enough.
When we brought the newborn lambs home in April, they were small and awkward, but cuddly and lovable. We made a pen in the garage out of refrigerator boxes and filled it with straw for them.
Bridgette had to mix powdered milk several times each day and feed them out of a soda bottle fitted with a large rubber nipple. She and her best friend Jeanne even slept in the pens for a few nights with the lambs so they wouldn't cry.
After a few weeks the lambs became attached to Bridgette and, as the old nursery rhyme goes, they followed her wherever she went. They would run and play in the yard and eat grass. They loved to push with their heads against a hand or leg. We never had to keep them fenced in because they stayed near the house waiting for Bridgette to come out and play with them.
One day, because it was so hot outside, she and Jeanne decided to give them a haircut with a pair of scissors. Needless to say, this didn't work out too well. The lambs ended up looking like some sort of sculptured carpeting with random pieces missing. The entire family had a good laugh.
As the day to sell the lambs drew near, Bridgette spent lots of private time with them. They would nuzzle her and sit beside her in the grass. She mentioned to her mother several times that she didn't like to think about them being butchered and eaten. Her mother had grown up on a farm and raised many animals, so she was able to identify with what Bridgette was feeling and explain to her God's purpose for farm animals.
The day before going to the auction I had called to see what recent prices were. The auctioneer mentioned that the buyers from the meat-packing houses had recently driven the prices up and he expected a good sale. What he didn't know, however, was that on the same day we planned to sell our lambs, another large sale was scheduled in another city that would attract all the packing-house buyers. Buyers would be sparse at Woody's.
As the lambs were ushered out into the sale pen and the auction started, I felt a sense of pride in my daughter and her summer's work. I was sure this would be a great learning experience for her. But the price started low, about 40 cents per pound, and crept up rather slowly. I knew quickly that the meat buyers were absent.
Trying to comfort Bridgette as she cried, I had an idea. I would go to the high bidder on the lambs, buy them back from him and take them to Salem the next week so Bridgette could get a better price. I saw him standing outside the old auction building—an old, worn barn that had been made into an auction arena. I approached him and explained the situation regarding my daughter and how she was sobbing. He didn't answer, except to ask me to have my daughter come out to talk to him by his old red pickup truck.
Bridgette walked over to the truck and sat beside this kindly, gray-haired gentleman dressed in overalls who had bought the lambs. He was obviously an experienced grandfather. They talked for a while and she calmed down, then went back to our van.
The man then came over to me and explained what he had told her. "I knew she had probably grown attached to the lambs like my daughters used to do," he explained. "So I asked her if it would make her feel better to know that I was not going to butcher the lambs, but that I just needed them to keep down the blackberries and brush on my place."
He said that when he told her the lambs were not going to die but would have a long, happy life on his farm, everything changed. She was satisfied with the sale.
I went back to the van, opened the door, and sat in the driver's seat. I then heard words that I will never forget: "Some things are better than money."
At 11 years old my daughter had learned a lesson that so few people today seem to understand. Society at times sets up money as the only thing to strive for, the ultimate measuring stick of success and source of happiness. But money as a source of real happiness is a mirage. As wise King Solomon pronounced years ago, "He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver" (Ecclesiastes 5:10 Ecclesiastes 5:10He that loves silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loves abundance with increase: this is also vanity.
American King James Version×).
Bridgette was not able to purchase all the clothes she had picked out for school that year. Some days she had to wear her older things. But I'm sure that as she sorted through her closet in the morning, she occasionally thought of her lambs living a happy life just a few miles away. She no doubt whispered to herself, "Some things are better than money." GN