August 7, 2007

Never forget to breathe

Aaron Tanler is a fast talker and a sharp dresser, but then again, that’s just the family tradition for the 22-year-old Redmond native.

A third-generation auctioneer, Tanler recently won the Rookie of the Year award at the International Livestock Auctioneers Championship in Calgary, Alberta. Last weekend, he was one of four guest auctioneers brought in to oversee the 4-H auction at the Deschutes County Fair.

Held in conjunction with the Calgary Stampede, the International Livestock Auctioneers Championship pits auctioneers against each other in a battle of fast tongues and crowd-pleasing showmanship. The rookie division includes those individuals who have been auctioneering for five years or less. Even though Tanler has only been officially auctioneering for four years, it’s likely he had a bit of a leg up on the competition.

His father, Clay Tanler, owns the Central Oregon Livestock Auction in Madras. Clay Tanler’s father, Aaron’s grandfather, owned the now-defunct Redmond Sale Yard, located where the Burger King now stands on Redmond’s south side. And Clay Tanler’s partner at Central Oregon Livestock Auction is Trent Stewart, one of Aaron’s early mentors and the 2007 World Livestock Auctioneer Champion.

In competition, auctioneers oversee a live auction, but the judges aren’t interested in how high an auctioneer can drive the bids. Instead, they’re looking for fast but crisp diction and a touch of style.

“The judges mostly judge you on your clarity and your presentation of yourself, the way you’re dressed and the way you present yourself to the crowd,” he said. “And the number one thing is – there’ll usually be five judges – the main question they ask themselves is would you hire this person to do an auction for you? So that’s the main criteria for that.”

In spring 2006, Tanler graduated from auctioneering school. He said he already knew many of the basics, but the school helped him perfect his “chant” – the strings of words between the numbers – and taught him how to present himself before an audience. The most important thing an auctioneer needs to remember? Don’t forget to breathe.

Like a musician playing a saxophone or a trumpet, an auctioneer needs to think a few steps ahead, breathing without breaking their rhythm. When Tanler was first starting out at his dad’s auction, there were a few times when he pushed it too far, and found himself gasping for breath at the end of a long string of syllables. By remembering a few simple tricks and building up his lung capacity through practice, he’s now able to make his way through an auction without getting overly winded.

“I was taught to ‘breathe on the five,’ like ‘onedollarbidder twodollarbidder threedollarbidder fourdollarbidder, fivedollarbidder breathe,” he said. “I’ve done it long enough now that I can fill it in with something that you won’t know I’ve messed up. But when you run out of breath, oh, that’s a bad deal.”

Even a practiced auctioneer runs into a few trouble spots. For Tanler, it’s the numbers, not the rest of the chant – “66” and “eight” will trip him up if he’s not careful.

Tanler’s grandfather died before he was born, and though he never met him, he says his grandfather is an inspiration to him to work hard and carry on in the family business. He said he’s never had any particular interest in ranching or raising animals – just selling them.

In October, Tanler is scheduled to go to a preliminary competition in Turlock, California where he could potentially qualify to go toe-to-toe with Stewart for the world title next June in Durant, Oklahoma.

“They’ll take the top ten out of all of the northwest, and if you make the top ten you’ll end up going to the World Livestock Championship,” he said. “Which is mostly just the United States and Canada, but if there was somebody from China who say wanted to get into it, I guess they could, but you don’t see that. Ever.”

-- story by Scott Hammers

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