A friend once told John Person (pronounced Pearson) that he had the perfect job, "just sit on your butt and talk for a living."
In reality, it amounts to more than that, but Person will admit that it is the "perfect job."
Person came to be an auctioneer quite by chance. He worked for a local Medford firm but hurt his back in an industrial injury. Faced with the dilemma of having to change occupations because of the injury, he chose to attend Auctioneering school in Montana. He had seen some several auctioneers in action and felt he could do as well as they.
When he returned from Montana, he set his sights high. "I wanted to be
one of the top 10 auctioneers in the northwest," he says, "and I’ve
worked to make that happen."
This all began in 1982 and he
recalls that jumping into the trade was anything but a piece of cake.
"As late as 1986, I was auctioning animals for $35 per day." But
persistence has paid off, and these many years later, he drives between
50 and 60,000 miles per year for his work.
Though his first
love is for Quarter Horses, he also sells many other types of animals,
but also cars, furniture and estate items. He also can be found
working to raise money for Easter Seals, for hospital benefits, youth
auctions and fund raisers for schools.
On September 1,
Person competed against some of the best in the field and came out on
top in the Oregon State competition. It was not his first title, he
won the California State title in 1991, and was honored as the World
Champion Bid Caller championship held in San Diego. He proudly wears
the champion’s ring, similar in size and weight to a Super Bowl ring.
it is not about the competition, Person says, it’s about doing the best
job of selling items for the owner. It’s about knowing the approximate
value of an item and doing the best possible to bring the best price.
He adds that "enthusiasm gets the crowd going," so he tries always to
be upbeat any time he is in front of the audience. He says his job is
to "find the one who signs the ticket."
This did not come
naturally for the North Dakota native. "I hated getting up in front of
people," he says. It’s also the reason he lives in Eagle Point, he
prefers to be out in the wide-open spaces astride a horse rather than
where the work takes him. Person likes the auctioneering so much he
knew he had to find a way to take the edge off the nervousness and put
the crowd at ease. He does this by calling out someone sitting in the
crowd, shifting the focus from himself to that other person. It is
also a good way to get everyone’s attention.
the worst problem he faces, and they can be tricky to deal with. They
only want attention "especially after they’ve had a few too many
drinks." He has to diffuse the situation without causing a scene and
without losing concentration on what he’s doing. "Once they distract
the auctioneer," he says, "they distract the crowd. And that never is
a good thing."
Most of that work is on the west Coast, but
he occasionally travels to places like Columbus, Ohio and New Jersey to
sell horses, and he recently returned from Puerto Rico and a
thoroughbred auction with another local auctioneer, Chris Caldwell.
While the pair was there, Hurricane Dean passed through, adding a
little excitement to the trip.
A little nearer to home,
Person can frequently be found at the youth livestock auctions held
during county fairs, but he has regular days in Tucson, Phoenix, Los
Angeles and Oakland. He averages about three auctions per week, but
often does more than that. He sometimes works alone or as part of a
John Person has found his niche. While his friend
might say he "just sits and talks," there is more to it than that. The
mileage alone would scare some, as would standing in front of sometimes
large crowds. Partly of necessity, partly of an intense desire, John
Person has learned to deal with it all-and does it better than most.
By Ralph McKechnie
Of the Independent