The Bradenton Herald Vin Mannix column
Jan 25, 2013 (The Bradenton Herald - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
When Joe Davis gets a microphone in his hands and starts talking fast a funny thing happens.
Folks spend money.
Lots of money.
No, Joe Davis is not some televangelist.
The barrel-chested Myakka City native is a veteran auctioneer who will be working his distinctive craft Saturday at the 97th annual Manatee County Fair Steer Sale.
Davis has already auctioned swine and plants at the fair, but steers are his piece de resistance.
It will be showtime at the Mosaic Arena.
"A good auctioneer is a beautiful thing to listen to," said the friendly 48-year-old. "I've heard some that are so good they could sell ice to an Eskimo. I'm encouraging people to spend their money and I want to make people feel good about spending it."
That he does.
Davis has won numerous fans after seven years auctioneering at the fair.
"He gets people engaged," said cattleman Chris Quattlebaum.
"He brings a good vibe to the arena," said Deb Berry, an FFA advisor at Braden River High School.
One of her proteges agreed.
BRHS senior Lizzie King has had steers fetch a nice price in recent years thanks to Davis.
"He knows how to get a crowd moving and start bidding," said the school FFA president. "I definitely find him entertaining."
Even if you may not understand him.
At a normal conversational pace, Davis would say:
"Two dollars. Would you go 25 Go 5-5. Would go you 2.50 I got 2.50. Now 2.75 ..."
But when he gets rolling in his auctioneer chant, it goes like this:
"Twodollars.Wouldyougo25 Go5-5.Wouldgoyou250 Igot250.Now275 ..."
It isn't easy to do.
Take it from Berry.
"I try to imitate him to my kids and they think it's hilarious," the FFA advisor said.
There is a method to Davis's manic delivery.
A little psychology, too.
"Guys don't want to get beat at anything and an auction is no different," he said. "Nobody wants to lose. Everybody wants to be that last bidder. We may spend more than we wanted to, but we won.
"The auctioneer is a tool in that."
Davis was 8 or 9 when he was first exposed to the art of auctioneering. He'd accompany his uncle delivering livestock from the old Harrison Ranch in Parrish to the Wauchula Livestock Market.
"It just sounded good," he said. "To see how an auctioneer could interact with people in a way they could understand and get them buying and bidding, I fell in love with it."
Taking in livestock auctions at Arcadia and Okeechobee fanned that interest.
"We didn't have to go that far to hear some of the best in the business," he said.
Davis began auctioneering within the last 15 years at area events, whether it was livestock, machinery or charity events, and he does rodeos, too.
When there's no live event to call, it's practice, practice, practice.
"I practice in the barn. I'll practice driving down the road. I'll practice at a red light. Guy in the car next to me's liable to go, 'What's this nut doing '" joked Davis, who was licensed in 2006. "If there's a cattle auction on TV, I got it on. Drives my wife crazy."
His expertise will show Saturday.
There will be 60-65 steers at the auction, raised by youngsters in 4-H or school FFA clubs, and seeing 90-pound kids pulling a rope tied to 1,200-pound calves tugs on his heartstrings.
His daughters, Kelly and Jessica, did the fair gamut, too.
"You're dealing with good kids, who've had these calves five months, some longer," Davis said. "They're up early feeding them in the morning, then feeding them at night, trying to break them.
"And there are people in the stands who know it. Most have been associated with it in some way and they know the hard work that goes into it. We got to support these kids, try to reward them, show them hard work pays off."
Which is where Davis' auctioneering skills come to the fore, trying to get kids paid as much as possible for steers weighing 950 to 1,300 pounds.
"My idea is kids need $2 a pound to break even and anything over that is profit," he said. "If it's a grand champion, I'll try to start at $5, maybe go backwards to $3 then try to get back up there. We'll go as far as they'll bid."
The highest Davis remembered going was around $16 a pound for a 1,200-pound steer that fetched one FFA chapter a big windfall.
"That's unheard of, but it benefited everybody in the club," he said. "Whatever it takes. If I've got to beg a little bit, I'll beg a little bit to make sure kids get their fair shake."
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix.
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