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What am I bid?

Some of our neighbors provide a valuable service, run an honest business and before they know it, by the sweat of their brow, 50 years have flown.

Duane Brood (pronounced Brud) climbs up on the auction block wearing his signature white cowboy hat, picks up the microphone and takes center stage every Thursday night at 7 p.m. He is the patter-pilot who flies the Red Barn Auction at 5421 S. Pacific Highway in Phoenix.

He and his good wife, Nita, will soon celebrate 50 years together — not as man and wife, they passed that mark three years ago, but 50 years of holding auction sales at a Rogue Valley landmark. The couple took over operation of the then-5-year-old establishment on Sept. 1,1964, and have given it their all ever since.

Duane graduated from auctioneer school in Mason City, Iowa, in 1957; just one year after Leroy Van Dyke made “Auctioneer Song” a hit. Duane’s class picture adorns the office wall for proof.

Some folks have their destinies spelled out plainly. When I asked Duane what made him choose that route, he said, “Three people told me the same thing — a dairyman I worked for told me I ought to become an auctioneer. So did my mother, and so did an uncle. I was trying to decide what to do with my life, so I went to auctioneering school.”

I enjoy a personal history with auctions — and with the Red Barn in particular. After Mom passed away, Dad needed a diversion. We loved antiques, so we shared a booth in a local mall and became two of the regulars who haunted the Barn every Thursday night searching for buried treasure.

“Somebody give me 10 dollars and walk it!” He called. I waited. It was a stealthy game of patience and subtle bidding. There were times we struck it and most we didn’t, but the gold nugget was our time together.

I can understand Duane’s frustration when he deals with an utter lack of appreciation from the audience. It must be irritating to ask for a low opening bid and see nothing but blank faces. I squirm in my seat when that happens. That’s when he firmly tells us to, “Stop sittin’ on your paddles!” A paddle refers to your bidding number, which is actually yellow card stock.

Then there was the time when he had this mustache cup. He could not wheedle or cajole a bid from our lethargic souls. He held the cup aloft with his right hand and poised the gavel in his left. “I’m going to break her. You just see if I don’t.” He did, too.

One night there came a raging thunder and lightening storm, and the lights went out. No lights and no power for his microphone. But we heard him shout loud and clear, “The auction must go on!” And it did.

An endearing part of the Barn for me is the signage they have posted high for the audience, so people can understand that the Red Barn is “not responsible for loss due to ire or heft.” I’m not sure what miscreant made off with the first letters of the two incomplete words, but I’m glad they’ve never found it necessary to replace them.

I asked Duane whether he still enjoyed the work.

“The last six years have been hard. I still get lots of merchandise, but I’m not getting much for it.”

He still answers many calls and travels all over the area scouting estates and helping seniors to downsize.

“I’m slowing down,” he tells me.

I know Duane and Nita to be honest and kind individuals. You don’t buck 50 years of a turbulent marketplace without satisfying buyers and making many friends along the way.

It’s a buyer’s market there — perfect for newlyweds, college students or anyone needing good, used tools and other necessities.

So, enjoy a different flavor of an evening out. A gritty, down-to-earth type. It IS a barn, after all. But, whatever you do, get your paddle in the air!

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer who works from a 1900 farmhouse in Eagle Point. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com.