When I was a kid, I tagged along with my father to cattle sales all over the country, and had dreams of choosing one of two professions. The first was that of being a livestock order-buyer. These men always wore the nicest hats, the most expensive boots, and seemed to have an endless supply of money that allowed them to purchase cattle by the trailer truck load. What could be easier than sitting in a chair all day (or night) long and spending other people’s money?
My second career option entailed that of becoming a livestock auctioneer. These men had the unique ability to talk fast, with a pleasing, rhythmic cadence that has lulled me to sleep many an afternoon and night of my childhood. Of course, the purpose of their chant is not to lull you to sleep, but rather to provide a sense of urgency among the bidders to purchase an item, by out-bidding others who also desire the same item. I can remember my father saying that a good auctioneer could make the animal bring every bit of its worth, and, a really good auctioneer could make it bring a few dollars more. That stuck with me throughout my life.
After high school, I contemplated going to auction school, but, unfortunately, when I had the time – I didn’t have the money. After college, I found myself teaching agriculture and eventually had enough money to pay for auction school, but I was so busy with my career. I then found myself unable to find the time to go, so the dream languished in the back of my mind for many, many years.
Throughout my lifetime, I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know dozens of auctioneers, many of whom have become very good friends. I’ve always admired, not only their skill at auctioneering, but their ability to banter with the audience and make any sale as entertaining as it is necessary. The very best ones wear even more expensive hats than the order-buyers, their boots cost more than many of the animals they sell, and, more often than not, they drove to the auction and parked their new Cadillac in the parking lot, right beside the dusty trucks of the prospective buyers. That is success.
Last spring, I happened to notice an ad for one of the major auction colleges, that informed the readers that they would be holding their summer session at a resort area, only about an hour from where I live. Unbeknownst to anyone around me, I enrolled in the week-long college. Unfortunately, two weeks before I was supposed to leave, they had to cancel the school because of the pandemic. Searching the internet, I found another one, a long way off, which was still going to have their course. I enrolled.
Two weeks before it was supposed to start, they postponed it, so I still had hopes. Eventually they rescheduled, in a different city, and my dreams were rekindled. I informed my wife, kids, friends and neighbors. For the next few days and weeks, I was called, among other things, “stupid,” “crazy,” “insane,” “deranged,” and other words I choose not to print. But, folks, after spending eight days and nights in beautiful Des Moines, Iowa, with 24 of my newest, best friends, you can now call me….“Colonel.”
Jerry Crownover farms in Lawrence County. He is a former professor of Agriculture Education at Missouri State University, and is an author and professional speaker. To contact Jerry, go to ozarksfn.com and click on ‘Contact Us.’