Auctioneer Mike Cagle’s patter mingles with the crows of roosters, quacking of ducks and chatter of the crowd.
“These homer pigeons are as fat as little butterballs. $2 a bird? They will never be no cheaper. How ‘bout $1.60 … $1.70 … $1.65?”
Welcome to the weekly animal auction at Cagle’s Family Auctions in Haywood County. Signs on the walls warn against making deals outside the official auction area. Mounds of horse tack and mounted stuffed animal heads, killed in long-ago hunts, add to the general ambiance. Inside, the air is heavy with the stench of animals. The floors are dirt. Seating consists of castoff rocking chairs, folding seats and the occasional crate.
No matter, the 60 or so folks gathered — a crowd of ball caps, blue jeans, steel-toed boots and rubber boots — were having a fine time. They know how rare it is these days to find a livestock exchange. And Cagle’s Family Auctions is the real deal. So authentic I thought maybe I’d stepped into a Norman Rockwell painting. That is, if Rockwell had been portraying unvarnished, mountain-style southern Appalachia.
“I love it,” Cagle said unreservedly about the animal auction he started in 2000. There is also a Saturday night tailgate auction, and periodic estate-liquidation auctions.
If you want it sold, this is the man to sell it.
For now, Cagle is operating the sole animal auction in Western North Carolina. He’ll soon have a bit of company. Work on a building to house a regional livestock auction has gotten under way in Canton. That auction is primarily aimed at helping the area’s struggling cattle farmers. They lost their main market after a livestock auction in Asheville closed down about six years ago. Pigs, goats and sheep will be auctioned in Canton, too.
Back to Cagle’s Family Auctions: a blue-point rabbit is pulled from a wire cage and put on the table standing center stage in front of the auctioneer’s booth. “Buck or doe?” someone asks. The rabbit is unceremoniously flipped over and scrutinized. “Buck,” one man replies. Sold, then, for $6 … “Nope, nope,” the seller interjects from the back of the crowd.
“How much you need?” Cagle queries. “About $40,” the seller replies. The $6 bidder shakes her head. That’s high dollars for a rabbit, even one this pretty. The rabbit goes back in the seller’s crate. It represents a rare instance of a no-deal at an auction where people are primed to buy.
Larry Verdon is a Cagle Family Auctions regular. He was buying rabbits. Verdon wanted to please his grandchildren when they visit his home in Haywood County. He also shelled out a few dollars for an exceptionally loud duck, and closely watched the poultry as the crates holding them passed him by on their way to the table. Verdon advised me to always examine the animals before buying them. Don’t buy a pig in a poke, as it were.
Verdon recently lost 10 hens to hawks. He wants to replenish the flock.
“I can’t grow ‘em out for what I can buy them for here,” Verdon said. “For me, it’s economics.”
And, the auction is fun.
Verdon readily admitted to liking the show, the atmosphere and the old-time community flavor of Cagle’s Family Auctions. Of being part of a group that know what color eggs Araucanas lay, and spending a few hours with people who can distinguish between pullets and hens, and cockerels and roosters.
I like it, too. The auction is good, cheap entertainment. I promised myself to get to Cagle’s earlier next time. A visit first to the Haywood County Fair meant I was too late for the tool and large livestock parts of the auction. In the summer, the auction action starts Saturdays at 9 a.m., 10 a.m. later in the year.
Take Exit 98 off U.S. 23/74, bearing left on Hyatt Creek Road. Drive seven-tenths of a mile, the auction is well marked on the left side of the road. The auction is held in the barn.