That Dinky's Charm

The Herald | That Dinky's Charm

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Story by Riley Guerzini

Photos by Sarah Ann Jump

The first step into Dinky’s Auction Center is like taking a step into another world.

Auctioneers ramble so fast, it’s nearly impossible to understand what they are saying. Crowds of people in bonnets, dresses, slacks and straw hats roam the 59,000-square-foot auction house, where multiple auction rings, concessions, and garment and food vendors reside.

People bring their families: kids, grandparents, uncles, sisters, mothers. Horse and buggies line the parking lots of the property, located in the heart of Amish country nearly halfway between Montgomery and Odon.

This is how they spend their Friday night.

“Sold!” auctioneers shout left and right. There’s no time to waste. The fast-paced environment is part of what makes Dinky’s so distinguished among auctiongoers.

There are old toys, hoses and paintings. Antiques pile in front of the auctioneers as bidders are eager to get their hands on the merchandise, many of which is homemade. Horses neigh from another barn nearby as crowds scurry to see who will take home the stout animal.

For them, it is all treasure — the experience, consignments and the community.

“If they’ve made it, we’ve sold it here,” says Lester Raber, one of the managers at Dinky’s. “You never know what you are going to see here.”

Dinky’s was built in 1996 by John Lengacher Jr., who purchased the 40-acre property near Montgomery that same year from Jacob “Dinky” Stoll. Jacob acquired the “Dinky” nickname from the creek that runs through the property called Dinkum Creek. When John took over the property, the name stuck. 

He ran the auction house for the first seven years, and then leased the building to the Raber Auction Committee in 2003.

Marcus Swarey of Fredericksburg leads his son, Ryan, 6, and a pony to the auction ring during the sixth annual Daviess County Pony Sale at Dinky’s Auction Center on May 25. Swarey’s three children helped show animals in the ring.

Lester, who also owns a heating business in Montgomery, is an auctioneer for the small animal ring. Visiting Dinky’s ever since he was a young boy, he practiced constantly behind the barn on the property before going to auction school in 2000.

He says even his 6- and 8-year-old boys are starting to practice auctioneering.

“I remember coming here when I was 16 years old and helping with all the animals, and I knew at that point I wanted to be an auctioneer,” Lester says. “As our children grow up, they always want to go to Dinky’s to help hold up items or whatever else they can. They love it.”

Lester, who lives just a few miles down the road from Dinky’s, says auctioneers sell an average of 80 items per hour, with all of them sometimes selling more than 3,000 totals items during the course of the night. Those hawking the goods can spend up to three hours auctioneering.

His No. 1 rule when bidding on anything at the auction? Make sure to inspect the merchandise before buying it.

“If there is something broken, we want to bring it to your attention if we can, but sometimes we can’t see all the cracks and things that might be in them,” he says.

Dinky’s hosts 49 Friday night auctions a year since its first-ever auction in October 1996.

Auctiongoers can find just about anything at Dinky’s, from livestock to cars, flowers to antiques, furniture to lumber and building supplies. Animals like snakes and wallaroos have also been auctioned off there.

Levi Raber, another manager at Dinky’s, says people come to the auction house from all over the country, and he’s met people from every state, except Hawaii.

He talks to people down south who run other auctions, and he has trouble describing the atmosphere at Dinky’s.

“They can’t quite grasp that something like that happens,” says Levi, a Montgomery resident. “I can sit here and talk about it with you for an hour, and I still can’t get across to you what happens at Dinkys’ on a Friday night.”

Kendall Raber, 8, of Montgomery, sits on an antique pedal tractor during the collectors’ auction at Dinky’s Auction Center in Montgomery on July 13.

What makes Dinky’s different from other auction houses, according to Levi, is how many auctions take place simultaneously, with up to a dozen auction rings found on the property on a single night.

“A lot of auctions will just sell small animals, or they will just sell furniture, or they will just sell antiques and have a different day for each thing,” he says. “We sell everything at one time.”

Dinky’s takes consignments Thursday and Friday, with hundreds of owners selling their horses, antiques and tractors, hoping some of the thousands of people that show up to the auction house on any given Friday night will bid on their items.

Starting at 6 p.m., the auction goes until everything is sold, which might be midnight.

“I’ve been coming to Dinky’s auction ever since I was a little boy and just watched it and started trying it,” says 22-year-old auctioneer Calvin Raber.

Calvin, who lives three miles from Dinky’s, went to auctioneering school in Indianapolis and has been working at the auction center for the past four years. He usually auctioneers in the antique ring.

The most expensive item he has ever sold at Dinky’s, he says, was a Belgian horse, which sold for $34,000. The most difficult part of auctioneering, he says, is trying to talk fast for nearly three hours.

“It keeps it interesting,” he says.

Dinky’s also hosts more than 20 special auctions every year on Saturdays.

Auctioneer Joseph Yoder of Montgomery sells flowers during a Friday night auction at Dinky's Auction Center in Montgomery on May 31.

On this particular Saturday in the summer heat, Dinky’s was hosting a special auction with more than 100 cast iron seats, 90 hit-and-miss engines and 50-plus pedal tractors. This auction featured many collectors from all over Indiana and several other states.

Retired farmer William Breeding of Milltown came to Dinky’s with his son, Charles, looking for old farm equipment and a hit-and-miss engine he can use to make homemade ice cream when he travels around to different festivals.

“You’d never find that many engines at a regular farm auction,” William says. “Most of the time if you are willing to pay for it, it will be here for you.”

Charles, who also has a seat on the Crawford County Council, travels to auctions about once a month. He said the atmosphere relaxes him and makes him feel at home.

“I try to have fun and try to keep the old stuff alive,” he says.

Hay trollies sold during the collectors’ auction at Dinky’s Auction Center on July 13.

Sisters Myka Threet, 13, and Dalyah Threet, 15, of Santa Claus, came to Dinky’s with their grandma for the small animal auction. They left with a pig and a bunny, which they bought for a combined $16.50. Myka said their family used to come to Dinky’s all the time, but doesn’t as much now that they are older.

Their grandparents live on a farm in Dubois where they own goats, dogs, chickens, cows, horses, mules and lots of bunnies.

“Her bunnies have babies, and a lot of times we just bring them here and sell them,” Dalyah says.

Another popular aspect of the auction center is the many vendors that set up shop within the barn. Vendors sell produce, chips, cookies, gloves, baked goods, frozen meats, jerky and cheese.

Chris Raber has been vending produce for four years, selling vegetables like squash, cucumbers, onions, carrots and cabbage. He mostly buys the produce wholesale locally. He runs the stand with his wife and three children.

“It’s just a good outing for a lot of people,” says Chris, who lives five miles from Dinky’s. “For some people, this is the beginning of a lifetime addition to their Friday nights.”

Jonathan Chupp of Salem runs the concession stand at the auction center about twice a year with about 30 of his friends from his church group. He says they will bring in around $2,500 in revenue from the stand, which they use as a fundraiser for their church.

“You’ll see a variety of things: people, animals, antiques,” he says. “It’s something like I’ve never seen before.”

While many of the people who visit Dinky’s come to bid on the unique items offered, others come just to have fun and socialize.

Santana Chadwick, 1, of Bloomfield, left, and Alisha Raber, 1, of Loogootee, meet during a Friday night auction at Dinky’s Auction Center on May 31. Both girls were born in the same month. “We have some of the same values as the Amish and Mennonite,” said Brandy Chadwick, Santana’s mother. “We have a large family, grow a garden, have an orchard. I’m a stay-at-home mom.”

Kenny Knepp, who lives two miles from Dinky’s, says he doesn’t usually bid on anything when he visits the auction center in the summertime, but he comes for the social environment.

“It’s something to do on a Friday night,” Kenny says. “A lot of people make it here every Friday night.”

Sometimes when the wind is blowing in the right direction, he can hear the auctioneers from his house.

In an era of Amazon and online shopping, the auction center in the middle of Daviess County makes its name off what it has continued to do for decades: entertain the community and beyond with merchandise, animals and old-fashioned socialization.

For those looking for something to do on a Friday night, Dinky’s might be a good place to start.

Hit-and-miss engines sold during the during a special collectors' auction at Dinky's Auction Center in Montgomery on July 13.

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