“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those that hustle”. Abraham Lincoln.

The words of old Abe have stood me in good stead for many a year.  In pursuit of that rarity which will add to my ever growing collection ‘hustle’ is ‘de riguer‘ and I do it in style.  However, the pursuit is often half hearted if and when I am faced with that most dreadful of Cock-pits, the auction !  I absolutely hate that method of selling.  For one thing the stupidity of the Reserve price leaves me frustrated and annoyed.  I don’t know what the origin of that particular antic is but I cannot understand its purpose as a mechanism for selling.  Sure, it protects the seller from losing his or her item at a silly knock-down price, but why oh why is the reserve price such a secret !!??  I am so astounded when, at an auction or even on Ebay, dozens of bids – and hence much time – are appended to an item only for it to fail to sell as it doesn’t reach the reserve price set by the seller.  It’s a retarded system, how much time is wasted while the Auctioneer does his verbal contortions accepting competing bids only to arrive at the last highest bid and then announcing the item isn’t sold; meaning it didn’t reach the reserve.  Why not tell everyone what the reserve price is and start the bidding at that point or, if no one is interested at that price, move on !!  Auctions are generally a must to avoid for me.

An old Cart of the tipping variety.

An rare relic, a C19th Tumbrill or Scotch Cart with the typical design quirks of a Cardiganshire cart.

I much prefer to push, look, purchase or walk.  I recently got caught in another problematic sale scenario the nature of which denied me my opportunity to successfully hustle.

I saw a rather rare survivor of the simple farm transport, the Tip Cart.  Now even though almost every farm had one, certainly back in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, very few have survived.  The ravages of age and woodworm have sent most of them back to the soil long years past – except the iron work of course which is often all that I find when searching old barns and collapsed sheds.  Thus to find one advertised on ebay, not too far away and apparently in good condition, was very unusual.  It was priced to sell immediately at £400 but it had no apparent reserve and a starting price of £250.  That would normally be higher than I would want to pay, especially as I have a nice example already, however, this example was of a type almost uniquely located in the Welsh heartland of Cardiganshire.  I kept watch – to see if there were any bidders – and eventually, about four days from the end of the on-line auction, I contacted the seller to arrange to go and inspect the cart.  Unfortunately she was unavailable on any day until after the end of the auction’s allotted time.  I therefore had to delay viewing the item until it had run its course and hopefully remained unsold.  That was indeed the outcome, no bids were received, and I duly drove over the day after to have a look at it, having pretty much decided I would offer less than her starting price of £250 as she had attracted no bids at that price.

The farm was a little further than I had anticipated but as soon as I began the descent down the old track that led from a small lane, I knew this was going to be a place of some interest.  It was an old farmstead with C18th barns and a much earlier house.  The size of the barn indicated that the land had supported a large arable crop and this was supported by the cart sheds which intimated a haywain or two gambos.  The cart I had come to see was already outside awaiting my inspection.  The first thing to examine are the wheels for if they are too rotten to be saved then there is no point in continuing.  The felloes – the section of the curved outer rim of the wheel made of ash – are often attacked by worm and can be too far gone to salvage.  More often than not the section which has been at the bottom, in the muck of the barn, for all those years will have completely rotted through.  The hub is also a major area of concern, it is of Elm and can also have been ravaged by rot and become too loose to be functional.  The oak spokes are generally sound enough being made of good oak.

The wheels on this little cart where excellent, some softening around a couple of the felloes where they sat against the metal tyre, but overall sound and easily restored.  The shafts were good too, these are generally of ash, sometimes oak, and can be quite well eaten away by the dreaded wood worm.  They were quite capable of being used to haul the cart should a horse ever be fitted to them again.  The tub was a little the worse for wear, but hey, it’s well over a hundred years old, with the floor, also elm boards, a little rotted in places.  However overall it was indeed an excellent proposition.  In addition there was another tub from a different cart which was perfectly interchangeable and in better condition.

Horse drawn tipping cart from Cardiganshire

The shafts were good and the cart’s tipping gear was sound also. A good restoration project I thought.

I didn’t want to sound too keen but at the same time was happy to tell the owner what the cart was, when it was likely to have been built – it had wooden axles rather than steel axle shafts thus it was a very early nineteenth century example.  I said I would gladly pay her the starting price which she had placed on it.  We chatted and I said I was happy for her to think about it if she didn’t want to commit there and then, she needed to speak to her hubby and clearly she had been getting some silly suggestions of its worth from locals and antique dealers.  You have to ask, even if it is rare, who wants it ?  What can you do with it and where can it be kept ?  It really is only a fanatic like me who would want to take it on.

Now had I taken the chance on its condition and placed a bid, the only bid in fact, of £250 while the ebay auction was running, it would have been mine.  That was too much of a gamble without seeing it at the price.  Had it been £100 I may well have taken a punt, as it was I left the farm confident that she would text me (as she promised) in a couple of days and that I had just bought a really nice Cardigan tip cart.  That was two weeks ago, I’ve heard nothing, such is the nuisance of on-line dealing !

Tipping cart body

The extra cart body tub was in better condition than the one fitted.

I will make contact this week to check on the situation.  Hustling in face to face negotiation can sometimes work against a successful conclusion.

On the other hand such insistence and quick decision making is an absolute requirement if success is to be achieved in other arenas.  Such an event is the annual Smallholders show at the Royal Welsh Showground in Llanelwedd near Builth.  I try to get there early in order to peruse the auction entries and decide whether I am going to bother putting myself through the hours of waiting and disappointment in order to attempt to get some item or other.  Generally there is little to persuade me that the wait is worth it and this year was no different.  It seems that the auction element of the show has become too expensive for both buyer and seller as entries are far below what they used to be and the interesting old farming items are nowhere to be seen.

Not so at the two or three stalls which always have an interesting array of items to tempt me.  One needs to be quick, get straight to the main stall of interest and then move quickly to the other two.  My rule is simple, if I see something of real rarity and interest, grab it, providing the price is right of course.  The right price is primarily one that I can afford or less, in other words, I’m after a rare item at a bargain price.  I’m usually disappointed.  However this year I got lucky and found two items that excited me sufficiently for me to buy them immediately, no quibble over the price.  They were both definite bargains.

Fall Trap for Mice

An very old ‘fall trap’ to catch mice. It is probably C18th and I just had to get it !

The first item that caught my eye at the invariably interesting stall of Tom, an eclectic dealer of all things country who used to have a fascinating little shop in Hay-on-Wye  (but now just does the weekly open air market), he seems to always have amazingly interesting and rare artefacts at very reasonable prices.  Indeed, so good – read low – are his prices that my dear friend the ‘Junkyard Angel’ from Trecastle Antiques centre also makes a bee line for him and as she is after that which I want, I have to get in first.  The small wooden block ‘thing’ was un-labelled, was not identified by dear Tom nor anyone around the stall when I got there.  I knew precisely what it was, after all hadn’t I recently acquired a book on the subject !  It was a fall trap designed to kill mice.  By supporting the large block which slides up and down the two up-right poles, on a baited stick the poor little mouse gets flattened by the heavy wooden brick.  It probably dates from the 1700s but may be a little later, however the design is lodged right in the middle of that century.  It is a real rarity, a must to have, and even at the price I didn’t hesitate …. where else can you spend £4 on a 250 year old piece of our heritage ?!

!8th century mouse trap.

The trigger mechanism is missing but in my recently acquired book on the History of Mouse Traps is a clear diagram showing the system.

There is something fascinating about old wooden traps and I have several in my collection.  They are real pieces of folk art and represent the humble attempts of our forefathers to control the vermin that threatened both their food stores and their health.

The second ‘lucky’ buy was not quite so exciting but was a real find for me.  If I tell you that for several years, no, for tens of years, I have wanted one you will realise my thrill.  It’s not that they are particularly rare, they often feature in on-line auctions and in sale rooms but the price they command is unjustifiable for me.  I enjoy working with wood though I do little of it, especially I like to ‘work’ my own Ash tool handles.  Using a draw knife on the shave horse is a very relaxing, almost therapeutic, pastime but to get a really accurately finished round handle a special type of draw knife is required.  In a box of old tools on Tom’s stall was just the one I had long desired.  I pulled it out and asked the proprietor “how much?”.  For £10 I took home a C19th woodworker’s tool that had been used and cherished by craftsmen for all of their lives, I get it and I get the part of them that the tool has absorbed, the love of the work, of the timber, of the craft.

Circular Draw Knife

The old circular draw knife has joined my cherished tool box and will once again assist in the manufacture of Ash handles.

I hustled into another melee of happy buyers at the other stalls that sometimes have items to seduce me.  This time however I was able to walk away, nothing was going to be better than what was already in my bag.  Not even the delicious ice creams of Llanfaes Dairy could persuade me to hustle anymore.  I could wait, after all, all things come to those who wait, don’t they ?


2 Responses to ““Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those that hustle”. Abraham Lincoln.”

  1. stan archer Says:

    Once again a most interesting blog, one cant help but note you have not mentioned that you will have to start saving soon in order to settle my breach of contract writ, of course you may wish to settle out of court. keep it up regards Stan Archer.

    • welshwaller Says:

      Ha ha Stanley ! You could have earned your corn today if I could have got you – I was bringing a MF35 over from B’amman when I blew a head gasket on the Black Mountain …. on my Disco not the tractor, vehicle and trailer stuck on the mountain !! Finally got it to Llangadog …. Don’t worry, your ‘contract’ will be called in soon !!

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