Preparation not enough for auction

By Glenda Price: State columnist

Livestock auctions are an integral part of ranch life. Usually, the sale barns have a cattle auction each week, and now and then they sell horses or sheep.

Ranchers whose cattle calve in the spring often consign their weanling calves to the sale barn in the fall.

Another type auction happens in the fall — fair time in much of the Southwest. Junior livestock exhibitors who won or placed high get to sell their animals at auction. The money they receive goes into their college fund and/or the purchase of breeding or show stock for next year.

At our fair there’s one other auction, a fund-raiser for maintenance of the fair’s barns, etc. Winning entries from the baked goods judging are placed in fancy baskets and are “shown” by the fair’s queens and princesses.

At regular cattle auctions I never can figure out who is bidding. I suspect those buyers bid by twitching their noses. Anyway, the ring men know, and the cattle get sold.

The junior livestock and baked sale auctions are different. The ringmen usually are local volunteers, and what they lack in professionalism they make up for in enthusiasm.

I’ve watched and listened to both kinds of auctions all my life, but never actually got a bidder’s number and tried to bid. I did this time. I figured at the bake sale the money wouldn’t be enough to demolish me if I messed up.

A friend had told me about a fellow who showed up at a junior livestock auction after being too well acquainted with Jack Daniels. He did not bid by twitching or winking. He shouted. After about 10 shouts, the auctioneer stopped everything.

“You’ve been bidding against yourself the last five rounds, fellow,” he said. “I hate to see you go broke.”

My friend pointed out they let that guy bid against himself many times before stopping him. She laughed and said, “After all, it was for a good cause.”

I thought about that while I sat holding my bidder number. The first try nobody saw me hold up my hand, and it got sold somewhere else. The next try I waved my bidder number card. The ring people never saw me, but finally the auctioneer did. He pointed at me, then said the number I assumed I’d bid among all the other stuff pouring out of his mouth.

Somebody on the other side of the room yelled and he looked over there. I couldn’t figure out how much I’d bid or how much the other person had bid, but I raised my card again anyway. Gleefully, I noticed I at last had the auction people’s attention.

Two ring persons were pointing at me while the auctioneer kept chanting numbers. Were they trying to get me to bid against myself? I thought I had it bought, so I didn’t say anything. They gave it to someone else.

I learned something that evening: Just because you’ve watched something happen many times doesn’t mean you really understand it.

Glenda Price has been a contributing editor to New Mexico Stockman magazine since 1982. Contact her at: