The Auctioneers Prayer
The 1980s was a difficult time in the heartland and the auction industry. Farmers from all corners succumbed to market forces beyond their control and were forced to sell some and often all things to settle debts. The sweep wasn't regional, like a snowstorm - it was a huge swath of hurt that affected bankers, farmers, families and everyone reliant on what corn and soybeans and wheat and livestock bring to everyone.
The scope of what transpired in the 1980s is perhaps best captured by the poem "The Auctioneers Prayer" written in 1986 by auctioneer Dennis Wendt of Parker, Kan. Mr. Wendt candidly chronicled the time's plight with passages like "The auctioneer sees all, he shares all their pain; he's seen it happen, time and again."
I spoke with Mr. Wendt recently as well as his wife, Gail. Both are quite obviously salt-of-the-earth, Christian folk. They both related a story of not-so-fun times themselves with third-shift jobs and all that goes with making ends meet. Then, when they decided to upgrade auctioneering from a hobby into a business, compassion met heartbreak.
"We'd seen people cry in the kitchen," Mr. Wendt said about the time's foreclosures. "It's never a happy time when they see us."
Mr. Wendt's poem caught wind at a national auctioneer's association convention in Maryland. Then a prominent magazine picked it up. A Facebook post set it sail again. The poem has even been added to The Great Poems of the Western World.
I've never pressed Mr. Wendt's flesh, but I know one thing - the man speaks from the heart.