My dad and I used to be regulars at Dave’s Family Auction, a since-closed  New Jersey auction house that sold everything from cheese doodles to diamonds.

We had a rule for Dave’s: We couldn’t spent more than $20 on a single trip. The rule made the game of the auction more fun, and it kept us in good graces with my mom, who groaned at the thought of expanding the family’s junk collection.

I thought my years of shopping at Dave’s would have prepared me for my first mud sale. It definitely didn’t.

The Strasburg Fire Company hosted its spring mud sale Saturday. A preview featuring small crafts was held Friday evening. The event kicked off the season of Lancaster County mud sales, which will run through August.

Mud sales are often the biggest fundraiser for volunteer fire companies and other nonprofits. It’s treasure hunting you can feel good about.

Strasburg Mud Sale

The backside of the fire hall was a busy place at the Strasburg Fire Company mud sale on Saturday.

I spent the first 30 minutes of Saturday’s mud sale wandering aimlessly, surely with a dumbfounded look on my face. Just when I thought I had a good grasp on things, I’d discover a new tent with a cluster of eagle-eyed shoppers ready to score some deals.

It took me way too long to realize you needed a buyer number to bid on anything. Once I got one, I found a seat next to a friendly couple in the firehouse to watch the quilt auction.

I quickly learned that this was not the place for someone with indecisive tendencies. Shortly after I arrived, a beautiful multicolor afghan was on the auction block. By the time I decided I wanted to bid on it, it had already been sold for an enviable $15.

Now I know why people get to mud sales so early to scope out the items before the auction starts. I peeked over the shoulders of more experienced mud sale buyers, who keenly marked in the list of quilts in the program the ones they were interested in bidding on. If you don’t pay attention, your prospective item will fly by in a matter of moments.

Mud sales are the exact opposite of the passive shopping experience I’m used to. Like so many of my fellow millennials, I shop online whenever it’s an option. I can scroll leisurely from the comfort of my dry, warm home and ponder a purchase for days before I click “submit order.”

That type of mentality won’t fly at a mud sale, which is about doing your research, showing up early and going after what you want, all while wading through quagmires of mud.

I learned mud sales require a lot of patience, too. Buyers scoped out items outdoors hours before they would be auctioned off and patiently followed the auctioneer down the long tables until he reached that item.

This took even more strength than usual on Saturday, with heavy downpours soaking the crowds and goods for much of the morning. As possibly the world’s most impatient person, I really admire the drive and dedication of mud sale veterans.

After four hours at the sale, I squished back to my car in my once red, now brown rain boots. I didn’t win any auctions, but I still came out feeling like a winner with a warm cup of chicken corn soup in hand.

Strasburg Mud Sale

The Strasburg Fire Company starts the mud sale season.