Lee Pitts: Wannabes
December 30, 2010
I see them at almost every sale I go to, people who for some reason think that the auction business is glamorous and that they want very much to be a part of it. I don’t know why auctions attract wannabes, but they do, like flies to cow pies.
Wannabes at horse sales are easy to spot. They are the ones yelling so everyone can hear them, “Take the saddle off,” or “Let’s see his back,” as if they intend to bid. They want so much to be perceived as horsemen or trainers, yet most of the time they are so inebriated if they did manage to crawl on one they’d be bucked off if the horse coughed. They have discriminating taste, these fake buyers, and they examine every horse with a critical eye, but never seem to find one to fit their strict requirements.
Wannabes are not limited to livestock auctions. Recently I worked a wine auction where a short, long haired, rotund counterfeit befriended the rich bidders, as if he was advising them. If they were the winning bidder he’d hold up their buyer number for them, trying to make everyone think he was the buyer. He distracted the bidders so bad that the auctioneer said in his chant, “Would someone take this guy outside and get rid of him?” As if the auction business has hit men or paid assassins on call for such chores.
Auctioneers attract their own set of groupies, mostly young men who’ve gone to auction school and idolize the famous auctioneers as if they were rock stars. I don’t know what they find so attractive about auctioneers but they think all they need is a chance behind the microphone to prove that they too can be a World Champion. They show up at sales hoping that the auctioneer missed his flight or that he’ll have a heart attack and they’ll be asked to sell the sale. Then they’ll be “discovered.”
There are even ring men groupies and this really baffles me because I’ve lived the life they think is glamorous and it’s nothing but bad motel rooms, endless barbecue lunches, speeding tickets and being gone from home. Some misguided young men think that ring men have achieved some degree of fame and they want it too. They aren’t pretty enough to be in the movies, can’t sing, aren’t smart enough to be crooks and see being a ring man as their only opportunity to be on stage. Even if it is just a sale barn in the middle of Nebraska with 30 people in attendance. I’ve never seen wannabe clerks, wannabe truckers or wannabe maintenance men who clean up the mess we all make, but they are just as vital to a sale. But where are their groupies?
The one set of groupies I simply don’t understand are the wannabe cow buyers. In all my years I’ve never seen anyone ask a cow buyer for his autograph, no one is throwing rose petals at their feet or erecting statues to them. To the best of my knowledge there is not a single cow buyer fan club in America, yet there are people who idolize them. I know one wannabe cow buyer who wants it so bad he drives an old Cadillac, sucks on a toothpick and hangs on the ring at every sale barn he can get to. No one knows what he does for a living, or if he inherited a fortune, but one thing’s for sure: it’s hard to feed the family pretending to be a cow buyer. He plays the part well though, bidding like crazy when cows are a nickel under the money and getting mad when the auctioneer misses his fake bid. One auctioneer got so irritated at him that he quick-hammered a cow to him, the first cow he’d ever bought in three years of pretending to be a cow buyer. You should have seen the look on his face. Pure panic. But give the guy credit, when the auctioneer asked him who the buyer was he said, “Put her on B cows number five and yard her separate.” As if he had five orders in his pocket or had previously bought any other cattle to get her confused with.
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After that little episode the last I heard our man was headed to Nevada where his next non-career is going to be pretending to be a cowboy. If he thought auctioneers were mean wait till he sees how Great Basin buckaroos treat wannabes.