IT'S THE PITTS -- HUH?

by: Lee Pitts

In the May 30 edition of the Auction Exchange there was an ad celebrating the Midwest Auctioneer Roundup contest in Shipshewana, Indiana. There were pictures of the winners, contestants and one precious little three or four year old girl with her hands covering her ears.

My sentiments exactly!

I've spent my adult life around auctions and I loved every minute, but I'm paying the price now. As a youngster I could hear a bug walking across the kitchen floor but I'm losing my hearing now and I know why. It was having my head right next to speakers for 43 years. I knew it would happen but what could I do? Auctions put food on our table.

My wife noticed it before I did. She'd say something and I'd reply, "Not today, maybe next week."

And then she'd yell, "I asked you if you fed the dog."

So now my standard reply to everything she says is, Huh?"

I suppose I need a hearing aid but I hear good ones can cost a couple grand and I'd rather be deaf than to spend that much money on something I can easily do without. Every time my wife says I need a hearing aid I reply, "When someone says something to me that's worth two thousand dollars then I'll get one. Until then I'll just use this antique ear trumpet I inherited from my great-grandpa." (For you youngsters, an ear trumpet is a device with a big round end that people talk into and at the other end is a narrow tube the hard-of-hearing person puts in his ear. I find mine works quite well.)

Maxine, of Hallmark Card fame, spoke for me when she said, "Never wear a hearing aid because if you do people expect you to listen to them."

I've worked with a lot of different auctioneers in my life and I've noticed that the younger they are the higher they turn up the volume. I would just remind beginning auctioneers that the clock that ticks the loudest doesn't always keep the best time.

Purebred auctioneers are notorious for turning up the volume, much more so than market auctioneers. I worked with one in particular who was so noisy he sounded like a Duroc trying to pass a gall stone. Or a pen full of calves the day after seeing their momma's for the last time. I could have made a living following him around selling ear plugs to those on the seats.

Speaking of ear plugs, you'd think an auctioneer would catch on to the subtle signs that he's too loud such as folks plugging their ears with cotton, light bulbs breaking overhead, folks covering their ears like that little girl in Indiana, and cattle trying to jump on the auction block to shut the loud mouth up. I recall one auction I tried to give a subtle hint by wearing a Scotch cap with the ear muffs pulled down tight over my ears like they wear in the Dakotas in winter. But when I wore it was the middle of summer in Scottsdale. The auctioneer still didn't get it.

Working ring you are more sensitive because people in the crowd complain and beg you to turn down the volume, but I learned right away you don't mess with an auctioneer's amplifier.

The volume is really noticeable to auction newbies. In all the years of flying on commercial airplanes I rarely talked to a fellow passenger. I went so far as to put on the cheap headset they give you like I was listening to music so I wouldn't have to talk, even though it wasn't plugged in. But one time I met a nice businessman who asked where I was headed. I told him I was going to Reno for a video cattle auction because I was the announcer. He was going to stay in the same hotel so I invited him to drop by for a free lunch and to watch the auction. Much to my surprise he did. I took a rare break to welcome him and explain how it all worked. After one lot I explained that we had just sold four loads of cattle to a buyer participating in the auction all the way back in Nebraska.

He replied, "And I bet he heard every word."

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