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Home Court Advantage

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

By Lee Pitts

Most purebred bull and female sales are held on the ranch because breeders want customers to meet the family, see the cowherd and partake in a beef barbecue or pre-sale party. Many big outfits have invested heavily in auction facilities, while others just clean out a hay barn or tractor shed. A growing number of sales are held at a local restaurant where animals are sold via video, while breeders on a tighter budget with fewer bulls sell them at an auction market. 

Selling at the local sale barn is a great way to sell because they already have the facilities, the sound system, the restaurant and the clerking. One downside is some people get their feelings hurt. 

Take the sale barn auctioneer, for example. He can be a world champion auctioneer, know all the buyers and may even own the auction market, and still the breeder will bring in a professional purebred auctioneer who wears a sports coat, tie, $800 hat, ostrich boots, a diamond stick pin and looks as out of place as ice cream on a cow pie.  

During the sale, the guy who sells every week on the stool now filled by the foreigner will continually turn down the sound system because the purebred auctioneer always turns it up too high, even when buyers are stuffing their ears with cotton. The regular guy will do everything in his power to mess up the imported prima donna from out of state.

Then there are the ring men. I’m qualified to speak on this subject because for 40 years I traveled the country as a ring man who worked purebred sales if the customer spent enough money on advertising to justify my presence. Whenever I worked an auction market sale, even if I knew the regular crew and preferred their company to the ring men I traveled with, I got the feeling my presence was as welcome as a crying baby at a wedding or funeral.

I especially remember an auction at a sale barn I regularly frequented to buy and sell cattle. John (not his real name) is the best ring man I’ve ever seen. He opened and shut the hydraulic doors and rapidly moved the cattle in and out, all while catching bids from inside the sale ring.  

John stood behind the bull board right in front of the auctioneer who sat at an elevated position. On the very first animal to sell, John was catching bids going unnoticed by dressed up guys outside the sale ring. The auctioneer stopped his chant to say to John, “You don’t have to do that son, we have professionals here to do that today!”

I saw steam coming out of John’s ears as he dipped the end of his whip in fresh cow manure, popped his popper and “professionally” splattered cow manure all over the sports jacket and tie of Mr. Fancy Pants auctioneer who may have also swallowed a speck or two.  

Chalk one point up for the home team. The war was on and I knew it wasn’t going to end well.

When the auctioneer sold a bull to a local rancher, John would let the ring man climb all the way up the stairs to fetch the buyer’s name and right before he’d announce it, John would smirk and say, “Oh, that’s Mr. Jenkins,” or, “That’s the Draggin’ S Ranch.” 

As previously mentioned, John also controlled the in and out gates which he started to open and close faster and faster until Mr. Fancy Pants could barely keep up. He looked as winded as a fat guy trying to run a marathon.

John waited for his final “coup de grâce” until the very last bull. As I previously mentioned, back when this happened, John still utilized a whip instead of a plastic paddle and John was so good with the whip, he could hit a fly in midair.  

So, when he shaved one-sixteenth of an inch off the end of the auctioneer’s nose on the last bull, he said it was an accident and apologized profusely, but I think the only thing he was sorry about was his whip didn’t cut as deep as the auctioneer calling him “son” in front of the home crowd and implying he wasn’t a professional.

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