|It’s the Pitts
By Lee Pitts
I was recently asked by a radio interviewer why I have such a cockeyed and warped way of looking at the world? I thought about the question briefly and came to the conclusion that it’s because I’ve hung around auctioneers too much.
“Where did you receive your education?” the interviewer continued.
“Where I went to school, and where I was educated are two separate questions,” I replied. “I went to college in this country and in Australia, but I was educated in this nation’s auction markets. My teachers were auction owners and auctioneers.”
I am writing this missive from the World Champion Auctioneer Contest, and I am reminded yet again why my heroes have always been auctioneers.
My No. 1 teacher and mentor is Skinner Hardy, who has been a friend and teacher for nearly 35 years now. Skinner was the fourth World Champion Livestock Auctioneer crowned, and it was so long ago that there weren’t any cars.
Well, even though Skinner is older than dirt, he isn’t quite that old. Skinner won the contest in Mackinaw Island, Mich., back in 1966 and the reason there were no cars is because they weren’t allowed on the island.
Skinner taught me a lot, like how to subtract the tip from your bill at the restaurant. They don’t teach that kind of stuff at school. He also taught me salesmanship, and that something is worth whatever you can convince someone it’s worth. I learned more from Skinner about marketing than any textbook.
Another old past champion who was at the contest was my good friend Dean Skow. Dean taught me that whiskey is the best throat lozenge and how to pronounce Ekalaka, Mont. He also taught me that Belle Fourche is not pronounced Bella Four Shay and that the Capital of South Dakota is not Pea Air.
Ralph Wade is given visiting dignitary status at the World Championship because he’s one of the best market auctioneers who ever lived. Ralph taught me fashion; that it’s okay to wear a tuxedo jacket with Wranglers.
Another World Champion, Lex Madden, also taught me how to dress. Before meeting Lex I thought that sports coats only came in black and gray. Lex introduced me to coats in shades of mauve, ochre, taupe and pink. His brother Shawn is also a great friend of mine, and he taught me about feinting goats and that it’s always cheaper to stay married to your first wife.
John Rodgers, or as we call him Crash Rodgers, taught me to always put your wheels down before you land and to never leave your wing man. Stenson Clontz taught me about humility. I was there the day he won back in Humeston, Iowa, and afterwards all he could say was how good the other contestants were. I’ve always liked humble people and Stenson has always been easy to like.
Canadian Dan Skeels taught me not to let a border stand in the way of friendship, and Jim Strain taught me about meat packers. World Champion Rick Machado taught me that the best stories are the ones we live every day, and Max Olvera showed me that the biggest hearts sometimes come in the smallest packages. Ken Troutt showed all of us how to die with dignity.
This year’s champ is David Macedo from Tulare, Calif. David taught me recently not to jump to conclusions or to stereotype people. Prior to being named the champ, David introduced me to his good-looking son and pretty daughter. I shook his son’s hand and said, “I bet you want to grow up and become an auctioneer just like your dad.” He replied, “No, I want to be a movie star.” And then David’s vivacious daughter piped up, “I want to grow up and become an auctioneer just like my dad.”
I hope she does. And I hope she wins the World Championship in 2025 and I am there to shake her hand. She’ll be joining a fine fraternity of folks.
These champs are no chumps.
This farm news was published in the August 23, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.