$700 pie? It’s the country way

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Linda Skuce poses with refurbished Allis Chambers One-Sixty model damaged in a fire, since rewired, refurbished and repainted, a symbol to the Skuces of rising from the ashes. Photo by Tom Van Dusen.

What is it with homemade pies of pretty much any flavour selling for hundreds of dollars at rural charity auctions?

The key to a huge pie payout is this: bidders must be convinced proceeds are going to a worthy cause and the home baker must have a solid reputation, perhaps having won a couple of ribbons at the local fair.

“It’s a thing,” said Linda Payant of the Vintage Iron & Traditions farm equipment collector’s club, in reference to a butterscotch pie that sold for $700 at an auction during the first Vintage Tractor Jam – which might become an annual event – June 12.

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The Tractor Jam included an antique equipment show and tractor pull. Photo by Tom Van Dusen.

The Jam included an antique equipment show, tractor pull, breakfast and lunch, live music and the auction, and took place at spacious, pristine Stanley’s Olde Maple Lane Farm east of Metcalfe. It was co-hosted by Earl Stanley and Vintage Iron.

The pie in question, sold by Russell’s James Family of auctioneers off a farm wagon and protected against a light rain with a plastic covering, was snapped up on behalf of Guy Fuels of Winchester in support of the Skuce family of Vernon, who lost their highly respected machinery repair shop in a Boxing Day fire last year. Under-insured, damage is estimated at $1 million.

Bidding wars on pies are how buyers clearly demonstrate their support for any given cause, said Payant, who, like everyone else at the sale, always knows what’s coming yet watches in awe as the pie price soars. As is often the case, this particular pie made by Doreen Bakker of Navan was held as the final item on the block.

The Skuces are well known throughout Eastern Ontario for doing a good job at a fair price and customers and friends wanted to repay that dedication to service and reliability, said Vintage Iron’s Henry Staal, who owns one of the largest agricultural antiques collections in the region.

It’s the country way … which the 200-member Vintage Iron club promotes. Farmers and other rural residents rally around their own when they’re facing hard times, Staal said. Like the Skuces, they’re proud, self-reliant folks who shrug off help but are glad to have it when it’s forced upon them. Since the fire, matriarch Linda Skuce has repeated several times that there are more important causes than hers to support.

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A king-of-the-castle goat looks over the Tractor Jam activities. Photo by Tom Van Dusen.

Stanley appreciated the chance to give back to respected community members through the use of his park-like site, which offered plenty of room for a variety of Tractor Jam activities. In addition, participants enjoyed connecting with Stanley’s resident livestock, which include cows, horses, chickens and other poultry, sheep and a king-of-the-castle goat.

Money for the Skuces, who were present during the Jam, was raised in various ways, including through the auction, a collection at the gate and random donations. The auction alone raised $10,830. Between a GoFundMe campaign and donations dropped off at the Skuce’s door, well over $100,000 had already been collected towards the rebuilding project even prior to the Tractor Jam. 

A key theme of both the show and the sale was the Allis Chalmers (AC) line of farm equipment favoured by repair shop founder the late Ab Skuce. In the long line of AC tractors on display was a customer’s One-Sixty model damaged in the fire, since rewired, refurbished and repainted, a symbol to the Skuces of rising from the ashes … which they fully intend to do.

Also on the auction block were an AC pedal tractor, which sold to George Nesbitt for $3,200, company flags, a custom tractor seat, a milk can painted AC’s trademark orange, and a chainsaw carving by Josh Dagg of an AC D21 grill snapped up by George Zandbelt for $600. Both Nesbitt and Zandbelt donated their items back to the Skuces to put on display in the new shop, which the family hopes will be ready by the end of this year.

Flanked by her two sons and grandson, Linda Skuce gave a short, heartfelt thank you to participants. Asked how she felt about the show of generosity, Skuce shook her head in amazement.

The burned-out shell of Skuce Repairs looks much the same now as it did the day after the fire. Reconstruction of the shop, located within the south rural boundaries of the City of Ottawa, is still awaiting the necessary permits, approvals and certified plans.

As an example of the considerate treatment given by the Skuce family, Staal told of how he was looking for 50 tractor hitch pins to give out at a customer appreciation day; he started with a price of $27 per pin, got it down to $15 from another supplier, and $13 at Skuce’s.

“When I got the bill, I’d been charged $9 per pin. I told Linda she made a mistake but she said that, since I was giving them out, she didn’t need to make a profit and gave me the cost price.”