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Grinders, rabbits, yuppies & dinks
It’s the Pitts
By Lee Pitts

Although they might show up at wine and car auctions, here are some folks you’ll NEVER meet on sale day at your local auction market during the slaughter cow run:

A Grinder: It is the Grinder’s job at high-end auto auctions to get in the face of bidders and “grind” on them until they bid again. I feel for the safety of anyone who gets in the face of a cow buyer to point out the attributes of the canner cow he was trying to steal. Whereas the auctioneer is permitted to say a kind word about an old cow, anyone else who stops the sale and tries it is liable to get punched in the face.

Insurance Salesman: A common sight at Thoroughbred sales, these folks wait in the wings to insure buyer’s purchases. I have yet to see an insurance salesman write a policy for a barren, toothless cow with an extremely short life expectancy.

A Rabbit: At horse sales sometimes you’ll see a person bid repeatedly in a clandestine manner to force another bidder to pay a higher price. We call them “rabbits.” Auction owners provide all the market support needed at a cow sale.

Paddle Holders: Unlike antique sales, where neophytes often leave their bidding paddles in the air, grizzled cow buyers try to make it difficult for anyone to see them bidding. Unfortunately, this includes the auctioneer.

Spouses: During charity auctions you might see a husband and wife argue about spending $5,000 for a Kobe Bryant basketball or a Barry Bonds baseball. I have yet to see a cow buyer bring his wife to a killer cow sale, let alone confer with her on whether to bid another tenth of a cent on an old piece of leather holding a cow together. Investment Advisor: I once sat next to an investment advisor at an Arabian horse dispersal during their fall from lofty evaluations. He was writing in his catalog the prices received for the horses he’d talked his investors into buying. Right next to those prices were how much his investors gave. If he was smart that guy left the country under an assumed name before the sale even ended.

Non-buying Bidders: Some people who just like to bid, or be seen bidding, will jump in at lower prices with no intention of actually having to pay for an item. At a cow sale the three or four cow buyers in attendance are apt to just let such a person buy one or two cows... or a truckload.

Pedigree Reader: You’ll never hear one of these at a cow sale. Killer cow buyers don’t care if an animal was Grand Champion at Denver or has a lot of blue blood flowing through her clogged arteries. All they care about is how many Big Macs she’ll make.

Flower Arranger And Balloon Blower: I’ll never forget a wine auction I worked where a scantily clad, pretty lady tied a balloon on the back of the chair of anyone who bought an item. The more money they paid... the higher the balloon was tied. Between the balloons and the huge flower arrangements in the center of every table you couldn’t see anyone bidding. In my 30 plus years of attending cow sales I have yet to see a balloon tied to the back of a cow buyer’s seat for buying a slaughter cow.

Yuppies and DINKS: I once asked a sale manager what type of person bought a llama and he replied, “DINK’s,” which he explained stood for “double income, no kids.” It was his theory that the llamas were taking the place of children for such people. I don’t think I have ever seen a cow buyer purchase a bovine as a companion animal. Cocktail Waitresses or Wine Stewards: At art and wine auctions prospective bidders are often served drinks while they bid. Cow buyers have been known to take a nip or two but in most cases they usually wait until after the sale.

Consignor: Unlike car owners and real estate developers, cattlemen hardly ever go to an auction to see what their cows brought. Cow selling is lumped in with making bologna and childbirth as things that were never meant to be watched in person.

This farm news was published in the Sept. 6, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.