AUBURN — The man climbing into the long white van is red from the sun and dusty from all the flying sand. He’s wearing a clean white shirt, but the sleeves are rolled to the elbows.

“You out there buying today?” Ralph Hart asks him. “Or just watching?”

“Just watching,” the slightly sunburned man answers. Then, after a pause: “Although, we did buy a few pieces.”

He’s a businessman who plays it close to the vest. Ralph understands this. He nods, knocks the shifter into gear and starts the winding journey up out of the sand pit.

Behold the K&K Excavation auction, an event expected to move millions of dollars in equipment but which looks like a little boy’s fantasy.

It’s all happening deep within the K&K sand pit off Gracelawn Road. Once Ralph drives you down into the pits, the sight is dazzling: enormous mountains of dirt surrounding cranes, lifts, bucket loaders … as much heavy machinery as you will ever see in one place.

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“There’s construction equipment, tools, containers, forklifts, trailers, a whole bunch of military equipment,” says K&K’s Dave Dubois, who was working the gate Friday afternoon. “A little bit of everything, really. There are a whole lot of Tonkas down there.”

Dave wasn’t kidding. As Ralph drove the next group of gawkers and buyers down into the pits, a pair of tractor-trailers were lumbering up the hill in the opposite direction.

“Those were sold,” Ralph says of the trucks, each valued at more than $100,000. “They’re brand-new trucks, too.”

It might be a little boy’s dream down there, but it would have to be a little boy with some spending dough.

All day Friday, Ralph hauled one buyer after another into the pit. Some would spend tens of thousands of dollars before he drove them out again.

Not that Ralph is one to nose into their business. He just enjoys giving them rides back and forth.

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“I’m having a great-old time,” Ralph says. “I used to be a school bus driver. This is even more fun than that.”

Down in the pit, hundreds of men and women mill around while the auctioneer, from Alex Lyon and Son, does his thing. A few are smoking cigars and squinting against the afternoon sun. Most are clutching item lists in their fists as they wait to bid.

The auctioneer, after rattling off a rapid-fire series of numbers, announces that the latest lot has been won for $40,000. A few men hiss and shake their fists in frustration.

“Too rich for my blood,” one mutters around his cigar.

Welcome to a very old-school way of commerce, one that has been around for more than 2,000 years. Organizers expected between $10 million and $20 million worth of equipment would be moved by the end of the day.

Most of the goods were being offered by K&K, according to Dubois, although a few other businesses were selling pieces.

Asked how many people he had driven back and forth Friday, Ralph strained to come up with a number and then gave up. Too many to count, in other words. He used to drive a bus in Millinocket and now he was a chauffeur for big-spending businesspeople. That’s a pretty good gig, if you can land it.

“I’m having a blast,” Ralph said. And then started back down into the pit.

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