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Adams: Arkansas pie auction

Posted: July 8, 2017 - 8:34pm

Just when I think I have nothing to write about, I enter into one of those "my cousin's girlfriend's sister" conversations in which I'm educated on the mechanics of the Arkansas pie auction. The strategic use of it aided my cousin's girlfriend's sister in winning her seat as Cleburne County Circuit Clerk in Heber Springs, AR.

My cousin grew up in Michigan. To his credit, he moved south as an adult. He popped his tent in Arkansas, though erroneously believing that all southern states are the same. None of his southern cousins could warn him about the pitfalls of the Arkansas pie auction.

As a result, his freezer contains hundreds of dollars worth of pies. I expect most freezers in Arkansas do. In Arkansas, pie auctions are frequent and pervasive. They fund all sorts of charitable causes.

What my cousin found himself embroiled in, however, was an Arkansas political pie auction. His girlfriend persuaded him with, "There's nothing more American than politics and apple pie."

Organizers first secure the presence of opposing candidates. Second, they retain the services of a professional auction company's licensed auctioneer. This prevents the delusion that the auction is a casual affair.

Third, ladies slice fruits of the branch and fruits of the vine into shells and crusts. They whip cream and peak meringue. Each pie is packaged real pretty and delivered to the auction hall. Finally, each candidate invites numerous supporters to attend.

Because all of this transpires in the south, etiquette reigns and logic is defied. To be clear, bidders at a pie auction do not purchase the chance to put a pie in the face of a politician as you might think. Buyers build pie towers in their ice boxes during the campaign season.

When a person wins a pie, the cash - minus the auctioneer's cut - is deposited into the coffers of the buyer's candidate. In addition to winning a pie, the buyer wins the opportunity to proclaim a candidate's dedication to world peace and saving the whales.

When the first pie on the block - an ordinary blueberry crumble - went for a whopping $400, my cousin turned to his girlfriend and gasped, "I'm not buying a pie."

"Yes you are," she said.

He dutifully ventured into the bidding and ended up with a $120 peach pie, an obligatory 30-seconds of floor time for singing the praises of his girlfriend's sister, and an affectionate squeeze from his girlfriend. The squeeze prompted him to bid on and win a lemon pie for $95. He stood and said his piece then stacked his second pie on his first. He was officially out now, even if his girlfriend gave him another squeeze.

The auction went on and on with lots of bidding and plenty of blabbering but no stacking of pies. Winners declined their pies, saying, "You can auction it off again," as if the gesture made their orations, which they did not forfeit, more credible.

This confused my Michigan-raised cousin. He understood none of these Arkansas wranglings. All he knew was that unless he did something, like buy all the repeat pies, this auction was going to go on all night. He bid, won, and testified until all of the returned-for-re-auction pies were in a stack next to his chair, bringing the function to an end. He never noticed the glares cast at him from the crowd of die-hard constituents well-versed in the art of the Arkansas political pie auction.

Bless my cousin's heart. He thought an Arkansas pie auction was all about getting a piece of the pie when it's really about pie in the sky promises.

(Lucy Adams is the author of Tuck Your Skirt in Your Panties and Run and other books. She lives in Thomson, Ga. Email Lucy at lucyadams.writer@gmail.com.)

 

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