America loves a good wreck. After hanging around auctions for 35 years I must admit that I've seen my share. Like these head-on collisions, for instance.
Plowing New Ground I'll never forget (and neither will he) the time an auctioneer was going to revolutionize the horse auction business by chanting while sitting astride a horse. The first time a ring man let out a shrill yell right in front of the auctioneer's mount the colonel went on an unscheduled flight that landed him in the hospital. In addition to seeing a great exhibition of bronc riding the crowd heard six seconds of colorful language never uttered before or since by any pedigree reader.
OOPS! When a famous local auctioneer could not attend an important charity auction he called his friend and asked him to stand in for him. The replacement is a great auctioneer but because he was not from the area he was unfamiliar with all the bigwig dignitaries in attendance. When he introduced the local state assemblyman prior to the sale and asked him to stand instead of polite applause you could have heard a pin drop. You see, the local politician was a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair. Needless to say, he could not stand up. As you'd expect the auction then got off to a rather cold start.
The Price of Progress A sale manager I know has always been one of the first to try new ideas and adapt new technology. He was the first one I'm aware of to implement buyer numbers instead of names at bull sales. But the first time he tried it an elderly gentleman held up his buyer number on the first bull and thereafter the ring man just called out the old man's number instead of his name whenever he bought a bull. Unfortunately the man was not always aware that he had bought the bull. When he went to settle up he expected to pay for three bulls. He had actually bought 17!
Computer Crash Speaking of early adopters another friend of mine was one of the last to computerize his auction market. In its inaugural run the computer was malfunctioning and slowing things down so bad that the auctioneer/owner got so fed up with it that he grabbed the computer off the auction block, raised it over his head and slammed it into the auction ring with great fanfare. It was lost for good I'm afraid... along with all the names and prices of all the cattle sold that day!
Spitting Fire I'll never forget the day we tried to sell Angus bulls with a faulty sound system, outside, during a thunder and lightning storm in the Arizona desert. It's the first and only time I have actually seen five inch sparks of electricity between the microphone and the auctioneer's tongue!
Speaking of Spitting The very first llama sale I ever worked I was warned that llamas will occasionally sputter spittle on you. I was also told that they warn you in advance by rolling their lips around in a circle. As I was working ring I turned around to turn in a bid and not a foot from my face was a llama showing all the signs of a premature eruption. I dodged out of the way just in time so that the llama's massive missive landed right on the expensive leather outfit of the heretofore volume buyer.
A Slip Off The Old Block Other auctioneers are always trying to improve on the methods used by farm and cattle auctioneers but it can't be done. I know one charity auctioneer who demanded a raised round stage in the middle of his audience about three feet off the ground. Instead of ring men yelling in their bids he had his ring men armed with flashlights with green tissue paper over the end. The idea was that when the room was darkened the green rays could be seen. Unfortunately the lights had to be turned down so low the ring men could not see the bids. And because the auctioneer had to turn 360 degrees in all directions he got to spinning around so fast he got dizzy, fell off the raised stage and broke his foot in five places. Fortunately the charity auction was for the Red Cross so disaster relief was close at hand.