Nine of the state's top auctioneers came to Callaway County Livestock Auction this week to vie for the title of Missouri State Champion. On the line Monday was a new cowboy hat, a thousand dollars, and a champion's belt buckle.
It's hard to tell what makes each caller unique. Is it the speed of the chant? Or the style? Three judges are giving these guys scores for clarity, bid catching and for keeping the sale moving. Judge Bobby Smith says he's also watching to see if the contestant is someone he would hire.
But this day doesn't come without some concerns for the younger sellers. "If anyone tells you they're not nervous when they get up there they're lying," says Bill Patton of Vienna who entered the contest for the second year.
While the cattle take center stage, the buyers here try to stay hidden. It's easy to miss their subtle bids which are sometimes the raise of the eyebrow, the wiggle of the finger, a scratch or a wink.
Most auctioneers go to school to hone their skills but this group says it's also in their blood. Many are second and third generation auctioneers.
In the end judges say one man will stand out. The winner of this year's state title is Jeremy Anstine of the Kingsville Livestock Auction.