Heeeeeeeey What’ll You Give Me For…..
It’s been a whirlwind week for me, but I didn’t want to lose track of a certain topic that dates back to when I was still in New Mexico, just over a week ago.
The reason for my trip back home was to help comfort and support my two goddaughters as this was the first year they both raised pigs as part of their 4-H club.
A week ago Friday was the sale day, meaning a livestock auction at the Southern New Mexico State Fair. Unfortunately my girls didn’t score high enough in the judging to make the sale (their pigs were purchased by a friend of the family), but we still attended the auction because the girls were helping their friends to sell their animals.
It had been since I was in college that I’d been to a livestock auction. I used to go fairly regularly, but times marches on.
Over the years, I’d forgotten what a visceral experience it really is.
First, the auction barn is usually a tin building, high ceilings and concrete floors.
Then a generous amount of straw hay is spread across the floor, which gives a certain sweet smell of hay mixed with a crazy amount of dust. I was blowing dust out of my nose all week.
One by one, the animals are led into a small pen by the kid that raised them, and walked around and posed. The kid smiles a huge, though sometimes fake, smile trying to lure potential buyers to spend a little more. (Fake because the kids are usually pretty sad about selling off their animal).
The cows moo, sheep baa, goats bleat and ducks quack as the anticipation is almost too tough to take.
And then, the auctioneer starts up.
The guy on the left is the auctioneer, the guy in the middle is helping him spot bids and the guy on the right is keeping records of the bids.
It’s a droning, pushing, forceful sound. When you first walk in, it’s startling, a cacophony of noise, but over time it becomes like a steady background hum. You have to tune it out, or it becomes overwhelming.
There are guys in the audience helping spot, and every now and again, they’ll holler “HAW!!!” as they get a reluctant bidder to go up in price a bit more.
The two auctioneers we had that evening traded off duties over the course of the sale.
This guy was really solid in his work, and funny too. I mean, he’s got an intensity here, but he’d say in his auctioneer cadence “C’mon Justin, you got some more in you….” or “Hey Dave, I thought you went home…”
He carried this little gavel thing, and would rap the podium real hard when the bidding was done. “SOLD!” *whack*
It was a sound I could feel in my bones.
Then the kid would walk their animal out of the pen, happy to have gotten a good price, sad because that meant the end.
The scene back in the pens behind the barn was a different story. Low light, animals rustling around, and little kids crying.
When the kids sell their animal, they also put together a basket of goodies as a thank you to the buyer. A friend of my younger goddaughter slipped a note in her basket that said “Please don’t kill my goat. He’s really nice. Please keep him as a pet.”
Kinda breaks my heart because I know that goat isn’t going to be anybody’s pet. It’s getting loaded onto the packer truck with all the rest.
A bit of harsh reality for a nine year old.
Next year I think my goddaughters are going to raise either dairy heifers or rabbits. Dairy heifers go back to the dairy to give milk, they don’t go on the packer truck. And with rabbits, the buyer usually gives the rabbit back to the kid.
That’s all a bit easier to take, I suppose.
All in all, I had a good time at the auction. I got to see some good friends I hadn’t seen in a while. I drank some of the auction barn’s free beer. And I got to remember what it means to be an Ag kid in New Mexico.
All photos in this post Copyright 2011, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license found in the right hand column of this page.