How A 10 Year Old Almost Bought A $300,000 Tractor

Mistakes happen. And the best ones are when they make for good stories years later. This is one of those stories, and the time is now.

My father’s side of the family owns a large farm in Upstate NY. As a kid, I used to help them do volunteer work for the Junius Volunteer Fire Department; things like chicken BBQs, selling hot dogs at the county fair, etc. For a few years, the Fire Dept. had a booth selling burgers and hot dogs at Empire Farm Days – a HUGE 3 day annual event in my hometown that has equipment exhibitors, panel discussions, and reps from every manufacturer you could think of even remotely associated with farming. But they also have free giveaways and games for adults and kids alike. One such game was “guess the number of corn kernels”. Every time I walked by that booth, I would write down a number on a piece of paper and drop it in the box. I probably did it 40 times over the course of three days. One month later I received a check in the mail for $500 dollars with a letter that basically said “Congratulations you guessed the closest! However you were only supposed to guess once and we noticed you had multiple entries. We didn’t post this rule at the booth, but employees in the area were telling people that this was the rule. If you are a moral person, you will not cash the enclosed check.” Call me a bad person then, because I cashed it.
Anyway, another game that I thought was fun was a “Guess the cost of a new John Deere Combine”. I thought it would be pretty awesome to win a new combine for the family farm. I would be a hero! Every time I walked by the John Deere booth, I wrote down a price and drop it in the box with my contact info. I was only about 10 years old, so I really had no idea that new combines cost HUNDREDS of thousands of dollars. A new one today costs nearly a half million dollars. But I was smart enough to know it costs a lot, so I wasn’t shy with adding zeros. 

About a month after Farm Days ended, my father received a phone call from the local John Deere dealer. Since I wasn’t there, my dad spoke on my behalf. The dealer excitedly told him that we are the new owners of a John Deere Combine. Confused, my father asked how this is possible. The dealer explained that I had the highest bid at the silent auction. SILENT AUCTION?!? Damn, I thought I was just guessing the cost like I was on The Price Is Right! I didn’t know I was bidding to BUY it! It took a LOT of talking from my Dad to convince the guy that a 10 year old kid bid on this thing, and surely they can’t expect us to buy it. The dealer wasn’t happy at all, but we eventually got out of it. 

So I didn’t end up with a combine that year, but I did unintentionally cheat my way to $500. I’ll chalk that up as a win.

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