THE BULLER AUCTION

By Staff
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Sieverkropp 2 cycle, 2 cylinder,1 spark plug.
2 / 5
Lally 3 2-volt light plant.
3 / 5
New Way model A, type C 3lA HP.
4 / 5
Interested bidders at the magneto display.
5 / 5
Case model steam tractor.

9712 N.W. 31st Avenue Vancouver, Washington 98665

Announce it and they will come! And so it was that we arrived at
the family farm of Alvin and Esther Buller, longtime residents and
farmers in Hampton, Nebraska, to attend the Buller Auction on
August 4-5, 2000.

As we approached, the tall corn seemed to nod as we passed, and
soon an opening in the freshly cut alfalfa field drew our
attention. There, like little soldiers, row upon row of stationary
gas engines stood, neatly placed on pallets, proudly awaiting
inspection!

A closer look revealed a modest home built on the site where
Alvin Buller was born some eighty years ago and which is now
occupied by his son Paul and wife, Dianne. We could see family
members preparing for the auction, marking parking areas, moving
flatbed trailers filled with engine paraphernalia including
magnetos, oilers, cranks and more. Alvin’s daughters, Norma
from Denton, Texas, and Donna from Bradshaw, Nebraska, were
visiting in the background and watching brother Paul as he spoke
briskly on his two-way radio.

The first day of the auction dawned with a heavy mist.
Irrigation was in full swing and combined with the ‘sweat’
of the corn, left the air heavy with moisture. Lonnie Nixon, the
auctioneer, readied his crew and by 9:00 a.m. began the two-day
event asking for bids on a long row of old carts and wheels. The
sun broke through just as the magnetos were auctioned. My husband
Bob had eyed them carefully the day before and had positioned
himself within easy view of Lonnie’s sharp eyes! Rick Rohrs, a
well-known auction attendee, was also prepared to bid. The items
sold quickly, the John Deere Model E with the 6 HP gear, the Wicos
and the Websters as well as many two, three and four cylinder
types.

Delicious aromas from Woody’s Barbecue wafted across the
farm yard, and many buyers sauntered over to take advantage of the
beef, pork and brot sandwiches, some accumulating tabs as they
returned time and again for refills of soft drinks and iced
tea.

As the auctioneer’s sing-song continued, interspersed with
his ‘bit-of-a-do-do-do,’ Esther Buller sat under a nearby
tree, observing the activity. I asked her how she felt, seeing her
husband’s collection being sold and hauled away. She held up
her hand to interrupt as Lonnie closed a bid for $340 on a Maytag
engine. ‘Goodness,’ she said, laughing, ‘that kind of
money for a little Maytag. Alvin couldn’t take time to fix the
little engine on my washer years ago, but he had all kinds of time
for those Maytags he collected.’ She added that she didn’t
recognize many people, saying, ‘Most of these folks are
strangers, but there are some I recognize from our auction
stops.’

I asked Esther about some of the more unusual items Alvin had
worked on, and she told me about the Case model, twenty years in
the making. Alvin used an old lipstick cap of hers as well as an
old sewing machine part to complete his project!

Alvin Buller, born into a German Mennonite family, died
Thanksgiving Eve 1999, tools in hand, in his favorite place, his
workshop. Married for many years, he met Esther in Colorado
Springs, Colorado, while in the service. He attended college for
two years, then devoted his life to farming.

He and Esther spent winters in Pharr, Texas, for the past 28
years and he began, in the 1960s, traveling the side roads looking
for old engines. Esther related she became a master co-pilot, as he
sometimes took his eyes off the road a little too long, and even
‘missed some stop signs,’ in his zeal for the perfect find!
He loved attending auctions, ‘standing back,’ she said, and
‘keeping his mouth shut,’ watching and waiting for the
right opportunity to bid on what he’d come for!

His last purchase, an engine cart, was made in the summer of
1999. It came with a small compressor, but Alvin wanted the cart
and got both for $45.

In his later years, Alvin anticipated part of his collection
would need to be sold, Esther’s security paramount in his mind,
should he predecease her. His family chose their favorite items,
ensuring they would be passed on to grandchildren and beyond. He
began sorting and cataloguing all his literature, including
GEM’s, farm equipment and repair manuals. Daughter-in-law
Dianne remarked he had it all ‘lined up for the
family.’

Next day the gas engines, sitting in the hot sun awaiting their
new owners, were auctioned off at prices ranging from $100 for a
Fairbanks-Morse Type Z, Style D, to $5,600 for the John Deere Model
E 6 HP (the belt pulley sold for an additional $150). My heart
tugged a bit as I listened to the bidding on the 6 HP jump from
$2,000 to $4,200 and then skyward! We’d wanted to complete a
second set of three Model E’s, but felt pretty satisfied our 6
HP at home was nicely escalating in value, restored in fine fashion
on its original cart.

By 1:10 p.m. it was all over. The Fairbanks-Morse
‘Jack-of-All-Trades,’ third from the last to be sold, was
purchased by friends LeRoy and Delores Arola from Woodland,
Washington. When the auctioneer called out ‘Going to
Washington!,’ I knew the Arolas had purchased a favorite.

We were impressed by the time and talent of Alvin’s
grandsons, sons-in-law and others who quickly and efficiently
helped load up trucks and trailers once the auction ended. This was
clearly a well-organized family affair, and it was evident each
member was feeling the bittersweet effect of their husband, father
and grandfather’s life-long interest being removed from
Alvin’s beloved farm. But we who collect these fine old engines
know and appreciate the interest Alvin Buller held. He, in effect,
has allowed us to continue his fine tradition and to pass along our
passion to our children and grandchildren. Thank you, Mr.
Buller.

Auctions come and auctions go, and this one near Aurora,
Nebraska, will be remembered for a long time. Just ask the folks
who bought the Economy 12 HP for $4,250, the Oshkosh for $3,600,
the Challenge Type H for $2,400, and the McCormick-Deering for
$3,050!

As for Lonnie and his team, they were headed out to continue a
busy summer schedule in the hot midwest. And as for Bob and me? A
box filled with magnetos, a few carts and a couple of beloved John
Deere Model E’s were added to our collection.

See you down the road!

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