My Big Break
3:40 pm
Sun August 31, 2014

Fast-Talking 21-Year-Old Makes A Winning Bid For Auctioneer Glory

Originally published on Sun August 31, 2014 5:17 pm

As part of a series called "My Big Break," All Things Considered is collecting stories of triumph, big and small. These are the moments when everything seems to click, and people leap forward into their careers.

When Blaine Lotz fires off prices from the auction block, the first thing you might notice is the lightning-fast speed of his words. But Lotz, wearing a suit and black cowboy hat as he rattles off numbers to a crowd of cattle-buyers, says there's much more to the art of auctioneering than speed.

And he would know: the 21-year-old from Edna, Kan., is this year's winner of the World Livestock Auctioneer Championship — the Super Bowl of auctioneering.

"Just about anybody you ask, they can tell you what they think an auctioneer is and it's always a fast talker," Blaine Lotz says. "But it's really more than that. I'm the bid-taker. I am the middleman. I am the agent between buyer and seller."

For Lotz, auctioneering is a family tradition.

"Years ago, my grandfather started the generations of the auctioneer," he says. "Later on, mom came along and she incorporated livestock auctions."

Lotz says his parents met at an auction in Diamond, Miss. She was the auctioneer; he was a cattle buyer.

"It just kind of went on from there," Lotz says. "Dad bought cattle, mom sold cattle, and I was born right into the business. In fact, 45 minutes after my mom had got done auctioneering, she went into labor with me. I was pretty near born in a livestock market."

Growing up, Lotz's lullaby was his mom's auctioneer chant.

"I guess it sunk in, because by the time I was 4 years old, the only thing I could think of was cattle and a livestock market," he says. "In fact, I learned to count cattle at a feed bunk. That's the way I learned to count."

As a teenager, Lotz enrolled at Western College of Auctioneering in Billings, Mont.

"They advertised it as the Cadillac of auction colleges," Lotz says. "The way they taught you how to auctioneer was via number-drills and tongue-twisters."

A month after finishing school in Montana, Lotz sold at his first auction. But he says his career breakthrough came a little later.

"My big break was the first year I competed in the qualifying rounds for the World Livestock Auctioneer Championship," he says. "That's where it all started."

"I went straight for the world contest," he says. "I never did compete in any other competitions or championships."

He was only 18 years old — the youngest age allowed to compete.

"It just shocked me to death when I was standing there ... when the first place rang, they named my name and I just could not believe it," he says.

That year, he won his qualifying round. Three years later, he's taken home the world title.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ARUN RATH, HOST:

Time now for the latest installment of our series My Big Break about career triumphs big and small. And this time we're headed down to a cattle auction.

(SOUNDBITE OF AUCTION CHANT)

RATH: Firing off prices from the auction block in a sharp suit and cowboy hat sits Blaine Lotz from Edna, Kansas. This year, he won first place at the World Livestock Auctioneer Championship, the Super Bowl of auctioneering. And he's only 21 years old.

BLAINE LOTZ: Just about anybody you ask, they can about tell you what they think an auctioneer is. And it's always a fast talker. But more - it's really more than that. I'm the bid-taker. I am the middleman. I'm the agent between buyer and seller. There's a million and a half things going on at once. But that's what makes it so much fun. I mean, there's no downtime. Everything is just on it. I mean, if you have some downtime, you should be doing something.

(SOUNDBITE OF AUCTION CHANT)

LOTZ: Years ago, my grandfather started the generations of the auctioneer. And later on, mom came along and she incorporated livestock auctions. But she also did auctions with my grandfather. Anyhow, on down the road, mom got to where she was selling livestock markets. And this was probably when she was 25 to 35 years old. It just so happens she was in Diamond, Missouri selling and up - walked up the stairs was my dad. And he was buying cattle. My dad is a cattle order buyer. It just kind of went on from there. Dad bought cattle. Mom sold cattle.

And I was born right into the business. In fact, 45 minutes after my mama got done auctioneering, she went into labor with me. I was pretty near born in a livestock market. It's that serious.

(SOUNDBITE OF COUNTRY MUSIC)

LOTZ: Mom always told me that my lullaby was the auction chant. She didn't sing to me or do anything else. She auctioneered to me. And I guess it sunk in. Because by the time I was four years old, the only thing I could think of was cattle and the livestock market. In fact, I learned to count cattle at a feed bunk. That's the way I learned to count - was when they were all lined up to eat - one, two, three, four, five.

(SOUNDBITE OF COUNTRY MUSIC)

LOTZ: By the time I was 15 years old, mom told me that she wanted to take me to auctioneer school. And I said, oh, I'm all over that. I definitely want to do that. Western College of Auctioneering in Billings, Montana - they advertise it as the Cadillac of auction colleges. The way they taught you how to auctioneer was via number-drills and tongue-twisters. Tongue-twister that I certainly enjoy is called "Betty Botter." Betty Botter bought some butter. But, said she, this butter's bitter. If I put it in my batter, it will make my batter bitter. But a bit of better butter will but make my batter better. Then she bought a bit of butter better than the bitter butter, made her bitter batter better. So ´twas better Betty Botter bought a bit of better butter.

And now to this day, every time before I get up to sell, to develop rhythm, I still do "Betty Botter."

(SOUNDBITE OF TONGUE-TWISTER, "BETTY BOTTER")

LOTZ: Betty Botter bought some butter. But, said she, this butter's bitter. If I put it in my batter, it will make my batter bitter. But a bit of better butter will but make my batter better. Then she bought a bit of butter better than the bitter butter, made her bitter batter better.

(SOUNDBITE OF COUNTRY MUSIC)

LOTZ: In July of 2009, I sold at my first auction. My big break was the first year I competed in the qualifying rounds for the World Livestock Auctioneer Championship. That's where it all started. I went straight for the world contest. I never did compete in any other competitions or championships - just only the World Livestock Auctioneer Championship. Just be at 18 years of age, it just shocked me to death when I was standing there. And then when the first place rang, they named my name and I just could not believe it.

(SOUNDBITE OF COUNTRY MUSIC)

LOTZ: Sure, sure. I'll do some chants.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE AUCTIONEER")

(SOUNDBITE OF AUCTIONEER CHANT)

(SOUNDBITE OF AUCTIONEER CHANT)

VAN DYKE: (Singing) He'd stand and listen carefully. Then pretty soon he began to see

how the auctioneer could talk so rapidly.

RATH: That's Blaine Lotz, the 21-year-old world livestock auctioneer champion. You don't have to be an auctioneer to have a big break. We want to hear your story. Send us an e-mail at mybigbreak@npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE AUCTIONEER")

VAN DYKE: (Singing) Gotta make my mark and be an auctioneer - 25 dollar bid it now, 30 dollar 30 will you gimmie 30 make it 30 bid it on a 30 dollar will you gimmie 30. Who'll bid a 30 dollar bid? Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.