Hunker Down

Published: Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 11:13 AM.

            I wanted to be an auctioneer. It was amazing how the words and sounds just rolled off their tongues. You could get a good dose of the mesmerizing calls every Saturday and Wednesday afternoons out at the old Tri County Stockyards.   

It seemed to my little ten year old mind to be some type of controlled pandemonium. They would be running cows, steers, bulls, sheep, hogs and/or Billy goats into that sawdust covered area just as fast as humanly possible. A short pause lasted only long enough to let the auctioneer wield his magic, a few hands to rise and the nod of a head or two to bobble in the wrap around audience. That animal was sold and you better get your eyes focused quickly on the gate to the far left—the next lot was being herded in.

            I tried to “take it all in” at once! It was fun to guess how high the bid would go on certain breeds. Bulls, without question, brought the most money. And a lot more cows were sold than anything else. Hog prices, according to Dad, hinged on whether we were buying…..or selling!

            I’ve seen bulls near ’bout leap into the crowd. I’ve seen hogs chase handlers around the arena. I’ve seen mules sit down right in the middle of the auction and refuse to get up. I saw a cow once start into labor right on the sales floor.      

            The folks in the audience were often more fun to watch than the four legged guys in the arena. Half of them showed up every time the sales doors opened and never bid on a thing. I reckon grown-ups liked to hear the auctioneer too. Or maybe, they had an old heifer or a young yearling they were trying to handicap as to value. Things moved a mite slow back in the mid fifties. Perhaps this was simply the best action in town.

            The seating arrangements were kinda like church. People apparently were assigned to the same place sale after sale. The aggressive bidders usually were down on the first row. They would bid early and often but didn’t buy as much as you might think. A late nod from the back row would take a steer home quicker than you could say, “What are you going to give for it….”

            Some guys waved frantically like they were proud to be bidding. Or they didn’t want the auctioneer, or you, to miss the fact that they had cash money and were ready to deal. Some did it with a slight raise of one finger. Another might drop his head slightly. And still another might move his head up just enough to make direct eye contact with the auctioneer. 

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