Auctioneer has found his calling

August 09, 2003|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

"Have Gavel, Will Travel," reads A. Jack Downin's mesh baseball cap.

Downin, 64, of Williamsport, works for Mack Trucks, but a livelier part of his life is as an auctioneer.

He volunteered his time Friday and has already put his time into the 4-H and Future Farmers of America, he said. In the 1940s and '50s, he traveled the country selling livestock in Chicago, Mississippi and St. Louis.

He's been calling for 20 years.

Asked to give an example of how he calls, he blurted a line of what could be voice, or it could be machine. He repeated one number in a stutter and a monotone, then jumped the tone and the number, and dropped the tone down back to the old number.

"You just use your numbers. You use some filler words," he said. "Let the buyer know where you're at and where you're going ... who's in, who's bid it is ... and how much you're trying to get."

Life on the farm

A radio hummed with the sound of country star Travis Tritt while Amber Karn, 15, and her friend, Jordan Creek, 16, played a game over a bale of hay.

After becoming friends this year, Karn has begun learning about the habits of farmers through Creek, with whom she attends South Hagerstown High School. Karn said she's more of a city person than Creek, but strictly by upbringing.

"I'd like to have a farm eventually, if I can ever get my parents to move," Karn said.

Karn, who was at the Ag Expo on Friday in a supporting role to Creek - she helped with the steer Creek would sell later in the evening - said she first visited Creek's family farm a few months ago and got hooked.

"It's just different from regular life. A lot of responsibilities," Karn said.

Cousins in competition

Ashley Rhoderick, 16, and her cousin, Matt Rhoderick, 15, were at odds Friday afternoon.

"It's a competition," Ashley said.

"Always," Matt chimed in.

The two Boonsboro High School students would be selling their steers in the evening market sale at the Ag Expo, each hoping for the best price.

Matt thought a good price would be $3.15 a pound. Ninety cents a pound "would be low," he said, and $1.50 would be about average.

The prices for steer would depend on variables like its coat, cleanliness, overall health and, of course, the customer.

"You never know what to expect. It just depends who's here," Ashley said.

Supporting the 4-H kids

Mark Myers, 44, of Clear Spring is a long-time Ag Expo visitor. He was raised on a farm in Washington County, showed steers with 4-H, and now comes back every year to buy livestock.

Friday, Myers was looking over the pool of swine that would be auctioned a few hours later.

He was looking at one pig that seemed to fit his ideals, not too fat, but not too lean, but in the end, he said his purpose was twofold.

First, the livestock he bought would be butchered and given to employees at his Hagerstown lumber company, Hagerstown Millworks.

Second, he said, "I'm here to support the 4-H kids."

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