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Going ... going ...

More than a few buildings will be gone when the final Rogue Valley Livestock auction is held this month. So, too, will a way of life and sense of community

— Jacob snuggled comfortably in Tammy Swain's tanned arms, peering out at the world through eyes as big and warm as a puppy's when a stocky fellow wearing a black Stetson strode up.

That's the ugliest dog I've ever seen, the man said.

But he wore a smile nearly as wide as his hat, along with an orange T-shirt and blue jeans, the latter being the preferred uniform for most regulars at the Rogue Valley Livestock Auction in Central Point.

He knew full well that Jacob was a lamb being bottle fed by longtime auction participant Swain, a wool sheep breeder. Although Jacob looked like a kid, as in young goat, he's actually a lamb, his owner noted.

— Selling or buying? Swain asked the man under the Stetson. He allowed that he could be in the market for hogs, if the price is right.

I come here to socialize as much as anything, just to visit with people, she said after he left to find a seat. My friends are here. My life is here. I don't know what I'm going to do when it closes.

The last auction at the stock yard, a favorite gathering place for farmers and ranchers for more than half a century at the corner of Table Rock and West Vilas roads, will be May 13.

Owner Bud Bever completed the sale of the seven-acre parcel on Friday. Buyer Ty Sullivan, whose company TJJ LLC has nine Dutch Bros. franchises in Jackson County, plans to build a new one at the site.

Sullivan intends to demolish the old buildings before July 1, then begin building the coffee stand. He has yet no plans for the rest of the property.

Thursday's auction drew standing room only in the auction house, which seats 313 people. Auctions have been held at the site every other Thursday afternoon.

As three small Jersey calves trotted into the ring, auctioneer Gary Pennington of Lakeview began his rapid-fire pitch.

OK, let's do it again, he began slowly, then swiftly picked up the pace. Forty! Do-I-hear-40? OK, 50. Do-I-hear-50, now-60? Sixty dollar?

The bidding stopped at &

36;50.

Fifty dollars here, Pennington said, pointing to the high bidder. Your name, sir?

Ben! yelled the bidder.

With that, Pennington marched swiftly through the long list of items: cows, horses, sheep, goats, saddles, bridles, even a turkey feeder.

As with most auctions, sellers pay a small fee for participating. Most regulars are from small ranches and farms.

With the loss of the local livestock auction site, the nearest auction will be in Klamath Falls, with another in Cottonwood, Calif., near Redding. There is also a livestock auction in Roseburg, although it hasn't been held on a regular basis lately.

This is the end of an era, observed Cindy Havice, the local auction secretary for 25 years, before Thursday's auction. There aren't many people living in this valley who can remember when it wasn't here.

A lot of people have been coming here as long as I have been here who don't really buy, don't really sell, added the 1972 graduate of Crater High School. But this is where they connect with everybody else.

Some use the gathering as a place where they buy or sell ranch equipment away from the auction itself, explained Havice, who plans to take the summer off, then attend some computer classes.

I just had a guy in here picking up a check for cattle he sold who said he had made more deals buying and selling equipment here at the livestock sale yard than anywhere else, she said. It's kind of a connecting point for the local livestock community.

Everybody and their dog was there Thursday to absorb the sound of the auctioneer, the rumbling din of the crowd and the sweet barnyard smell.

Indeed, a lot of the participants brought their dogs, mainly border collies or blue healers who established invisible territorial boundaries around their human companions.

Sprawled at his owner's feet, one blue healer watched the proceedings with his head resting on his paws.

But he bristled and showed his teeth when another healer stepped boldly across the invisible boundary. Both owners reined in their dogs, nodded a friendly greeting to each other and returned their attention to Pennington in the center ring.

Wimer residents Bob and Lucy London didn't bring any cow dogs but they hoped to pick up half a dozen young steers. They've been attending the auction for more than 30 years.

But I've never seen this many cars here ' never, Bob London said, noting many were likely drawn by nostalgia for a threatened lifestyle.

The couple bought several steers at an earlier April auction.

Guess we'll be going to Klamath or Cottonwood now ' that's about the only choice we got, he said. We'll sure be missing our friends here.

We always see people we know here, then end up buying something, too, his wife added. It's a good place.

And one that needs to be replicated somewhere else in the region, said veteran auction participant Earl Howard of Shady Cove. He was looking to pick up a few heifers.

Like the others at the auction, he didn't fault the property owner for selling the parcel whose value has risen over the years, outstripping its use as an auction house.

But I'm hoping this doesn't mean the end of the rural lifestyle in Jackson County, Howard said. I'm asking the other cattlemen and farm families that have been here a long time to take up the baton and do something. We need to put another cattle yard in.

Motioning toward the large crowd, he figures there is ample interest.

We definitely need it, he said. And there are plenty of places where we could put one.

But he believes it may take the backing of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners and local legislators.

They can make it so it can happen, he said, citing potential land-use restriction problems. But it will also require the help of people who have been using this auction. They need to step up to the plate.

White City resident Swain, who breeds sheep when she isn't working her full-time job as a licensed practical nurse, agrees. She has been attending the auction for 18 years.

I have sheep that sometimes have four babies at a whack, she said. Mommy can't raise all of them. So we sell the bummer babies here.

Jacob is a bummer baby, which she described as one its natural mother can't feed.

You can only bottle feed so many babies, the nurse said.

When this is gone, what is everybody going to do with their back-up market lambs or their back-up steers? she asked. I can't drive all the way to K-Falls or Roseburg for a few babies.

Her daughter, Kayla Swain, 14, is also worried about the future of local agriculture with the loss of the auction she has known all her life. She is involved in both 4-H and Future Farmers of America, two popular clubs for students interested in agriculture projects.

I don't want to have to put down animals because you can't afford to sell them in the paper or because you can't afford to feed them, Kayla said, noting that the auction has provided an excellent outlet for animals farmers can't afford to keep.

In addition to losing a market, local ranchers and farmers will lose a valuable meeting place, her mother said.

Over the years, I've come to know all the great sheep breeders, goat breeders, horse breeders, she said. If you want to learn something about livestock, you come here. There are a lot of experts here.

They come from throughout southwestern Oregon and Northern California, she said.

As the auction wore on, Pennington reminded the crowd that the facility was about to close.

Y'all come back here May 13 ' might be the last one, Pennington said.

The next item was a sway-backed white horse which sold for &

36;85.

Your name, ma'am? he asked.

Tammy! yelled Swain.

Swain, who also sold a few head of sheep and goats during Thursday's auction, was happy with her purchase.

She's a little undernourished, needs vitamins, she said. But she'll have 15 acres to go run on. Somebody needs to rescue horses. I feel good about it.

Ranchers and farmers gather at the Rogue Valley Livestock Auction Thursday to bid on everything from goats to bridles. The property sold on Friday. The last auction will be May 13, and a Dutch Bros coffee stand built on the site. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven