Most people think that auctioneers are like politicians in that they both speak a bunch of meaningless gibberish, but unlike our elected leaders, auctioneers do occasionally say things of importance. I’m not talking about the numbers they call or the filler words they use like bidemupboys, doitagainnow, bidderrbuyer or whaddaygonnado, but full and complete sentences. I am also not referring to all the speeches they make about how the bull or horse buying crowd is failing to see all the attributes of the animal in the ring. I am referring to full and complete sentences they work into their chants that they think only a few trained listeners can hear.
If you listen, you can hear auctioneers telling the fellas working the in and out gates to swing them a little faster, or they might say hello to a buyer who just walked into the sale pavilion. Talented auctioneers can work these sentences right into their chants so that only the trained ears of the buyers, clerks and ring men can hear them. It’s like subliminal advertising where the message is hidden, or not readily apparent.
It’s true that many people just don’t understand what the auctioneer is saying. Period. As proof I offer up the fact that we once sold 17 bulls to a fella who thought he’d only bought three, or the rancher who bought the high grading Longhorn bull when he wanted the Champion Charolais that sold next. Clearly they missed something. Even the pros sometimes have a hard time understanding what some auctioneers say.
Auctioneers invariably think that they can talk faster than 99 percent of the people can listen, as if they are speaking Spanish to a bunch of Laplanders. They think only a chosen few are wearing the decoder ring and that they are akin to the Navajo code talkers in the war who were utilized to send messages in their native tongue so the Germans and Japanese could not understand them.
At purebred sales the auctioneer’s complete sentences are most often aimed at the ring men who have very trained ears. Sometimes the words sting. Stanley Stout was known for routinely harassing his ring men in his chant. He often called attention to the fact that I was wearing the same clothes I wore 20 years ago or that I wasn’t wearing a tie. Another auctioneer friend of mine routinely criticizes the bull in the ring, suggesting it should have been made a steer. He once carried on about the tightfisted owner of the cattle we were selling that day. And the guy was sitting stone-like right next to him on the auction block! He didn’t hear a word the auctioneer said.
I think auctioneers do this for a couple of reasons; it breaks the monotony and it’s like a game to them. It’s also very hard to do and it sets the good ones apart.
It’s always been my opinion that people hear more than the auctioneers think they hear when they shoot from the lip. The fact that the crowd sits as still as a lawn ornament, showing no emotion, after the auctioneer has just told a joke or said something witty in his chant is not necessarily because they didn’t hear it, sometimes it’s just because the joke wasn’t as funny or witty as the auctioneer thought it was.
The problem is you never know exactly just who is listening. One of my most memorable auction experiences happened at a huge sale in a packed stock show auditorium. When a ravishingly beautiful buckle bunny stood up in the crowd to leave the young, cocky auctioneer said rapidly in his chant for the ring men to hear, “Looky there, looky there. Makes you wish you weren’t married, don’t it?”
After the auctioneer completed what was supposed to be the first of two hitches that day his wife was right there to greet him with not-so-welcoming arms when he got off the auction block. With a twist of his ear the irate wife dragged her husband out of the arena for all the world to see, never to be seen again that day.
Proving my point that some people are better listeners than you might think.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the June 19, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News