Lee Pitts: It’s the Pitts 8-8-11
August 8, 2011
I have seen some amazing things sell at cattle auctions including a big batch of tamales, a 1942 Ford, a building that had to be moved and hay bales that the bidders at an auction were sitting on. It’s not just cattle that sell at cattle auctions, as my wife can attest. Usually I’d bring home a trailer full of trader bulls, or call from a thousand miles away and tell her to be expecting 52,000 pounds of snotty cows that I picked up cheap at some dispersal. But one time I brought home a beautiful hooked rug that our friend Linda Royal made to sell for a scholarship fund at the Famoso all breeds bull sale. It was the only time in my life my wife wasn’t mad at me for what I brought home from a sale, and it still sits proudly at our front door.
One time in Texas the crowd that showed up for a purebred breeder’s inaugural sale was so paltry that they had a lot of delicious beef left over from the barbecue, so they sold it just prior to the cattle auction. It was by far the best beef I’ve ever eaten at a sale, and that’s saying a mouth full. The small crowd appreciated it too and the beef sold for what had to be a world record at the time. Sadly, as I noted in my sale report, the beef was in a lot more demand than the cattle that day and shortly thereafter we held a dispersal for the man. The last I heard he owned a thriving chain of restaurants. Good for him.
You never know what you’ll see selling in a cattle dispersal and the auctions are usually good because all the neighbor’s come to buy the seller’s discarded dreams. I’ll never forget the dispersal my friend Rick managed for his family. On the day of the sale the family’s farm was more crowded than the Dollar Store on the day that Social Security checks are received in the mail. We sold everything from classic cars to semen tanks but it was the only time I can remember ever selling a fence. And no, the fence wasn’t the “load and go” type, with rolls of wire and posts stacked neatly. When I say we “sold a fence” I mean a fence! The winning bidder had to tear it down.
My wife and I buy Girl Scout cookies every year to support the community kids, and because my wife LOVES the thin mints! But the local girls don’t have a rich businessman father selling cookies for them at a cattle sale. One time in Oklahoma the father got up before the sale and announced they were going to start the sale by auctioning off Girl Scout cookies so that his “poor” daughter could afford to go to Girl Scout Camp. Everyone in the crowd who wanted to do business with the man bought at least one box. I think I bought five! (My wife would have approved of that purchase, but they disappeared somewhere before I got home!)
About 1985 all the Brangus breeders in Texas who had sales got the idea of offering a unique animal in their sale for rich oil men with the urge to splurge. The lots ranged from a pair of burros to a wide variety of zoo animals. Fortunately, I could not afford to buy any of these or my wife would’ve killed me when the truck arrived back home with an irritated emu or a feinting goat.
By far, the strangest thing I’ve ever seen sold at a cattle auction was a rabbit. A New Zealand White, if I recall correctly. It was at the National Western in Denver, Colo., where the sale manager figuratively pulled the rabbit out of his hat. Now, you’d have thought that the bunny wouldn’t have brought much but the buyers zeroed in on that bunny like a hawk on a cottontail, so to speak. For, you see, it wasn’t the rabbit the buyers wanted, but what was inside her.
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Back when the “exotic” breeds first came to America you couldn’t just import all the animals you wanted. There were rules. So some smart person decided to take an egg from a valuable animal in Europe and transport it to America in the womb of a rabbit to keep the egg alive. The winning bidder would have the rabbit killed, the egg removed, and implanted into his own recipient cow. I know what you’re thinking, how mean to kill the rabbit! But don’t feel sorry for the bunny, it probably would have died during parturition anyway.