Thousands of people from the outer fringe of American animal-ownership descend on a cluster of barns to watch and bid, while auctioneers - many wearing Abe Lincoln beards and broad-brimmed hats - sell off hundreds of live creatures, representing almost every species that hitched a ride on Noah's ark.
"Camels, zebras—I don't think I ever did sell giraffes—alligators, all kinds of different monkeys, I guess," said auctioneer Arlen Yoder, 36, listing off his oddest sales. Yoder wore a beard, a black straw hat, and blue plain-front trousers. Like 90 percent of the auction's employees, he is Amish. His only apparent break with the technological caution of his religion was a wireless headset to amplify his sales patter.
Animal activists forced the auctioneers to stop selling leopards and bears. Now they only sell boring animals like "alligators and elk, kangaroos and kinkajous, parrots and poison-arrow frogs, and an irate African aardvark throwing such a pre-auction tantrum that three men were called in to wrestle the animal from his cage." No recording devices are allowed at the auction; video from this unrelated Amish horse auction is only to whet your imagination.
Between Amish auction-house zebras and fancy News Corp trainwreck The Daily, there's a metaphor here, if anyone cares to untangle it. Something about delicate creatures with colorful plumage, gasping for breath in a stodgy environment of neglect? Mythic monsters from Australia financing cultural anachronism in the rural Midwest? Come to think of it, "irate aardvark" would be a good nickname for Rupert Murdoch.