Trey Poage demonstrates auctioneer body language in his law office in Marble Falls. Poage volunteers his time to local charity auctions, including the Burnet County Livestock Show. Staff photo by Suzanne Freeman
Attorney and auctioneer Trey Poage grew up on a sheep ranch in West Texas, where he got his first taste of livestock show competitions and sales. He was a livestock judge while earning a bachelor’s degree in animal science at Texas A&M University in College Station. That was followed by a master’s in animal science at Angelo State University in San Angelo and a law degree at Texas Tech University in Lubbock.
While pursuing a higher education, he partnered with his father, George Walton Poage Jr. (Trey is George Walton Poage III), in an auctioneering business focused mainly on estate sales. He attended a nine-day training session at the Missouri Auction School — “the Harvard of auction schools” — in 1996.
Poage now takes a six-hour online course each year to maintain his auctioneering license through the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. A full-time attorney, which includes serving as county attorney for King County in West Texas, he limits his auctioneering to charity shows such as the annual Faith Academy of Marble Falls fundraiser and the Burnet County Livestock Show, both of which he has been doing for the past 20 years.
Poage and his wife, Nicole, have three children. Son Grayson is a freshman at Texas A&M, where he serves in the Corps of Cadets. Twin daughters Audri and Claire are sophomores at Faith Academy.
Here’s what attorney Poage had to say about his auctioneering side gig.
The chant would be the answer most people would think of (when asked the most important skill of an auctioneer), but that’s way, way down the list. Number one, you have to have a presence of mind to just understand your audience, understand your situation.
Very little time spent is auctioneering. You’re talking about the kids, the items, engaging the crowd. You have to realize these are real people spending real money. They don’t have to be there. You need to be thankful for your buyers, thankful for your audience, and very thankful for the hard work the kids have put in.
Your chant is your chant — that is just who you are. When I got back from auction school, my chant was pretty raw. The Midland Livestock Show graciously allowed me to auction sheep and goats. I cut my teeth at a fast-paced livestock auction.
The chant takes on a life of its own. They taught us how to develop it at auction school. You come home and practice. Driving down the road is a good way to practice. I mostly developed mine at the Midland livestock auction. I got some speed to it. You want to be saying something all the time. It’s not as fast as you think, just you are saying something all the time.
There’s a lot of filler words, but people don’t realize what’s going on. Here’s my chant, as an example: Hundred dollars anywhere, hundred dollars, I’m-give-you a hundred and fifty, thank you, now a hundred and fifty, now two hundred, I’m in for a hundred and fifty, now two hundred, two hundred anywhere, two hundred anywhere, thank you, now two-fifty, I’m at two hundred, now two-fifty, two-fifty anywhere, now I’m at two-fifty, two hundred, now two-fifty, now two-fifty, now two-fifty, two-fifty, thank you, now three, I’m at two-fifty now three, now three, now three, now four, I’m at four hundred, now five, thank you, I’m at three now four, now five, I’m at five hundred, now six, five hundred, now six, six anywhere? six anywhere? all in? sold, five hundred.
At this point, I don’t have to practice, I’ve been doing it so long. They taught us tongue twisters at the school. “Betty Botter bought some butter but, she said, this butter’s bitter; if I put it in my batter, it will make my batter bitter.”
The main thing is to keep your mouth hydrated. I say those tongue twisters because I like to. Sometimes, I take cough drops. I auctioneered seven hours once without getting off the block. I was sick that night. That was too much. I overdid it. That was livestock the one year I was by myself. Now, we have another auctioneer there, thank goodness.
It can get dusty in a show barn, but I grew up with the dust and hay, so I’m used to hacking up livestock dust.
Body language is important. When I point at someone, that lets them know their bid is in. When it’s done, I’ll sweep the crowd with my arm. A lot of times, especially, you find this with people who show up, walk in, and they wave at someone they know not paying attention, and I’ll call their bid just to wake them up. It’s all in fun. We always have fun with that.
Sometimes, I have a gavel. If I have a gavel, I’ll point with the gavel. I don’t have one right now. I tear up gavels. I haven’t used one in several years. I tore up the last one someone gave me. You wind up banging them until they fall apart.
By far, my favorite auction that I do every year is the Burnet County Livestock Show. I’ve done majors. I’ve done Odessa and big estate auctions. I love Burnet County because I know a bunch of the kids. They’ve worked hard on their projects. The buyers believe in the projects and the kids. It’s humbling to work with these kids. I’m just the middle man. I look out behind the block and see these great kids and look at the buyers and see these people who are dedicated and generous to these kids.
That’s why being a people person is the most important skill. You need to have a heart for people, you need to enjoy people, and you need to be good with people. It is a strongly people-based business. It doesn’t matter what you are selling.