Friday, June 11, 2010


Remember back in the '90's when the internet was vilified because it was eliminating the need for real human interaction? It was about the time online grocery shopping was introduced, and I was in high school so I may not be remembering this right. People were terrified that we would become a country of shut-ins and recluses. And look what we've done. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, how many more are there? Hundreds? Thousands? We have the capability to never see another live human being again and yet what most people choose to do when they're online is contact other people, people they've not seen in years. I've got more friends on Facebook than I ever had in my whole life, people who I thought hated me, people who I loved but didn't know I existed. Every time I get a friend request I think "Wow! That person noticed me?!" All the missed opportunities! I could have been the most popular person in high school, if only I'd known that so many people knew my name. I guess the rule pretty much is that if you went to the same high school or college, you were friends. Which is really pretty interesting. Even the people I remember as being enemies (not mine, of course, I didn't have any enemies, and if I did I was unaware of it and still am because we're facebook friends now) in high school are friends. Take all these gang-related shootings, for instance. I've always thought that gang members would have way more similarities than differences, they ought to get along. They would probably be facebook friends. After all, you have to know someone to hate them, you have to be alike, to care about them in some way, otherwise you just wouldn't care about them, they'd just be someone you didn't know. Thanks, facebook, for demonstrating that.

Which brings me to glassware. Tomorrow Spear Auctioneers is going to be holding their first live online auction, a first for the state of Arkansas as well, and it's going to be all glassware. Hours and hours worth of what I'm told is a magnificent collection. Tomorrow, what began as small gatherings in chicken houses and cattle ranches will be broadcast at the speed of information around the world. Don, who wears suspenders and a cowboy hat daily, who does something like 300 push-ups and sit-ups every morning, who once punched a horse when it got out of control and knocked IT to the ground, is worried to death about his voice being heard across the nation. I'll be there clerking, along with my sister-in-law and one other clerk, who sat through hours of training on Proxibid, the online auction service. Only Richard, the auctioneer and my father-in-law, seems stoically calm.

This is where we are now. Some people may still fear a world where people can hide in their dusty apartments and still collect really nice glassware, but I think this is going to go the way of everything else. I think friends will be made, I think people at home can now take part in the excitement that an auction generates, be a part of that energy even from far away, because isn't that what we do best, being people?

If you want to be friends with Spear Auctioneers, Inc. they're there on facebook. If you want to take part in the auction, to exercise that human instinct to interact with other people go to and look for Spear Auctioneers under auction houses. It's going to be epic.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Attorney and the Auctioneer

Most successful attorneys are disliked, most auctioneers have to be liked to be successful. So how is it that Richard Spear, auctioneer, and Richard Peel, attorney, are such good business partners? Despite the apparent incongruity in job requirements Spear and Peel have had a successful working relationship for over 15 years, and maybe it's precisely those qualities that have made them both successful in their respective trades and such a productive pair.

I don't know Richard Peel very well but I've heard stories from Spear regarding, and can personally vouch for his no-nonsense approach to business (and conversation) based on my phone interview with him. He's precise, he answers questions succinctly and without hesitation, there are no "um's" and "ah's" to fill the gaps as he thinks of the right word, he's got the right word, and when the conversation is over you get the impression that he moves seamlessly on to the next activity with the same focus and intensity, as if the conversation had never taken place. I can sense immediately why he's the lead attorney at one of Russellville's most successful law firms.

Peel handles a lot of cases in which a division or liquidation of property is required. When these cases come up he always turns to Spear Auctioneers to get the most out of the property for his clients. He said that the auction method "has been wonderful."

At a Spear Auctioneers auction all clerking is done using a computer system. Buyer and seller information is recorded as the auction proceeds and is transmitted via wireless modem to the check-in/out trailer, which streamlines the process as opposed to the old "pen and paper" clerking system.

"Richard is the only auctioneer that I know of in this area with the computer clerking system which allows for immediate purchases and immediate payouts," Peel said.

The prompt service and past performance were also cited by Peel as reasons why he uses Spear Auctioneers.

"He has a large following that provides you with a ready group of prospective buyers," he added.

As for the benefit of the auction method in general, "I'm always surprised at how much property brings in relation to how much I think it's worth," he continued.

Like Peel, Spear is perfectly suited to his profession. He knows how to put on a show and make an auction not only profitable but entertaining. He's been in the business for over 20 years, which is part of the reason Peel can say that "Richard has an unequalled knowledge of the value of personal property. He can tell you how a sale should go in advance."

Many people would not think that an attorney and an auctioneer would have a whole lot in common, but their dedication to their respective professions and their commitment to their clients is commonality enough to form a strong working relationship. Of course, Spear said, smiling, "I wouldn't want Peel against me in court."

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Paul David Meimerstorf worked nights sorting mail at the post office. When he retired he had over 30 years of service to his credit.
He was a Vietnam Veteran who received an honorable discharge.
He made muscadine wine for which he won both awards and admiration.
He was an avid deer hunter and enjoyed camping, rodeos, and chuck wagon races.
He wore a pair of boots and a cowboy hat like a uniform, everyday. "He was a real cowboy," his daughter-in-law said.
To his friends he was "Paul David" and he had many.
Paul played many roles in the lives of many people but never has anyone had anything bad to say about him.  "Everyone loved him because he was so friendly," his daughter-in-law said.  "He never met a stranger, and when you met him he made you feel like you had known him for years."
Paul also had a dog.  "Little Bit" was a stray that Paul tried and tried to give away, but I guess Little Bit felt about Paul the way his human counterparts did and assumed that Paul's was his home.  Eventually Little Bit went everywhere with Paul, even riding on the back of his four-wheeler.  Little Bit grew on Paul and he finally decided that he "wouldn't give him away for $1,000."
On August 20, 2009 Paul died at the age of 59 of cancer. His doctor during the last few months of his life commented that Paul had the best attitude of any patient he'd ever seen.  In reference to his cancer Paul was heard saying, "it's no reason to get down."
His funeral had standing-room only and on his casket with the flowers was his favorite cowboy hat.
Over the years he amassed an estate reminiscent of the life he lived - boats, cars, tools, grills, hunting gear, and machinery - a life that was dedicated to the company of friends and the enjoyment of the simple things.
On October 3, 2009 his estate will be sold by auction at 10 am, and maybe Little Bit will be there too.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Need for Speed

Don Gray lives life in the fast lane - literally.  He's been racing cars since he was in the 9th grade.
"I started with a Mustang, then went to the Camaro, which I would drive to work during the week and take to the track on the weekends to race," Gray said.  "I also got into the Nova, which was an eight-second car, and went from that to the '79 Firebird."
A veteran of the airplane business, he has built his life around speed.
"I just love the thrill of going fast," he said.  
During the week he works on his cars and perfects the mechanics and paint, on weekends he said that he goes out to Centerville to the track.
"You don't win a lot of money, you just go and spend money and have fun," he laughed.
Gray is selling some of his cars by auction on September, 12th.  Pictured in the auction flyer is the '79 Firebird, and something called a "Funny Car."  Those of you who are car aficionados like Gray probably know what that is, others, like me may not.  While it may look funny, the engineering and resulting speed are nothing to laugh about, I'm told.  In addition to the cars there is all kinds of machinery and tools for the car, or airplane, enthusiast.  The buyers at this auction will not be disappointed.
"The cars I've built, I've built them right," Gray said.  "I put the best of everything in them, they're the best there are and people who come will see that, they'll know they were built and painted right."
If you're looking to buy a race car, or some tools and equipment, or have a serious conversation about an interesting hobby this auction is drawing like-minded people from miles around.   

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Home with History

The house on 715 S. Commerce wasn’t always a brick, single-family home.  In the 1880’s, when it’s approximated that the home was built, it was a wooden house, the gingerbread-type complete with a wrap-around porch and a row of dormitory rooms in the back.  It was on a much larger lot in a much smaller and still developing Russellville.

R.L. Harkey was the original owner of the house and he had a tannery in the back for the saddle shop he owned downtown.  His wife, Kate, was the daughter of R.L. Smith, one of the founders of Russellville who started the town’s hospital and fire department.

Russellville in the late 1800’s was a booming little town.  Main Street was always busy with the comings-and-goings of local farmers and businessmen and housewives with their children after flour or cloth or miscellaneous sundry for that day.  Henry Ford’s Model A had yet to make it’s way into the mainstream of rural America and with the horse being the most common mode of transportation R.L. Harkey’s saddle shop did very well. 

In 1906 a fire swept through the downtown area, claiming Harkey’s saddle shop as one of the casualties.  The day after the fire the local newspaper reported that Harkey would not be rebuilding.

In the years that followed Harkey mortgaged his property a number of times.  By 1930 R.L. had died and Kate was living in the house by herself.  The dormitory rooms out back which were once full of R.L.’s tannery workers were now filled with boarders.  On May 28, 1935 the bank foreclosed on the house.

Nearly ten years later, on December 19, 1944, John and Eula Holbrook bought the house from the bank and moved in with their five children.  The dormitory out back was eventually removed and replaced with a garage and driveway.  The house was bricked in the late 1950’s and the kitchen remodeled in the 1960’s. 

John opened John’s Cleaners and Laundry in 1940 and Eula started planting flowers, she was a rose and iris judge and her yard, filled with over 100 rose bushes and countless irises, was the standard by which all others were to be measured.  Her daughter Linda said that she was quite the gardener.  She was forever providing flowers for people’s weddings and parties, and would often “take them more than they needed,” Linda said.

Linda and Ann, John and Eula’s other daughter, remember having chickens and horses out back.  As the city closed in around 715 S. Commerce the Holbrooks sold off some of the lots and, I assume, the horse if not the chickens.

Today the two story home, built in the 1880’s, owned by a prominent Russellville family, then bought by the bank during a nation of hard times, sold then to a couple who raised five children, a horse and some chickens on the property, and now sits on a corner lot of the historical district of Russellville, full of well over a century of history, a with an auction sign out front, ready for it’s fourth owner and next chapter.  

Friday, April 10, 2009

A History Lesson

The word "auction" comes from the Latin augere, meaning "to increase" or "augment." I always find it interesting that a word so old could survive for so long, to be used today as if it were our own.
Greek scribes recorded auctions being held as early as 500 BCE.  Ancient Babylonians held auctions of women for wives, in fact it was considered illegal for a woman to be sold into marriage outside of the auction method.
In the Roman Empire a licensed auctioneer was called the "Magister Auctionarium."  The Magister Auctionarium started an auction by driving a spear into the ground.  The spear became the symbol under which auctions were held.  I've always heard that a person's name can affect what they do for a living, like a dentist named Dr. Molar or a teacher named Ms. Reading, maybe there is even more to that theory than we expect, as seems to be the case with Richard Spear, Auctioneer.
Usually an auction was held in the Roman Empire to liquidate the spoils of war, but there were other occasions when the auction method was used.  The great Marcus Aurelius, one of the most important Stoic Philosophers and the last of the "Five Good Emperors" of the Roman Empire auctioned off his furniture to pay off his debts-a sale that lasted six months.
One of the most notable auctions of all time was held in 193 CE.  Thirteen years after Rome lost Marcus Aurelius, Rome lost itself by being put on the auction block by the Praetorian Guard. On March 23rd the Guard killed emperor Pertinax and then offered the Empire to the highest bidder.  Didius Julianus won with bid of 6250 drachmas (to put that in perspective a family of three could survive on half a drachma per day) per guard, only to be beheaded two months later when Septimus Severus conquered Rome.
After the fall of the Roman Empire the auction method also fell out of favor until about the 18th century when the British began holding "auctions by candle."  A candle was lit at the beginning of a sale and ascending bids were taken until the candle flickered out.  Whoever held the highest bid at that point won the item.
By the end of the 18th century auctions were being held in taverns and coffee shops to sell art which is roughly when Sotheby's (the world's second largest auction house) and Christie's (the world's largest auction house) were established. 
From there we see auctions emerge during the American Civil War as a means of liquidating goods seized by armies.  The Colonel of the division would hold the auction which is why "Colonel" is the unofficial title for an auctioneer.
In modern times auctions are finding their place in popular culture with the success of online auctions, television shows, even a DC Comics character who is an enemy of Superman, "The Auctioneer."  Auctions have been a part of our collective human history from the gardens of Babylon and the courtyards of Rome to the battlefields of the Civil War and the pages comic books and right here in Russellville, Arkansas, once again under the sign of the spear.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Happy Home

Jessie Dorman was a school teacher.  She wanted her own house before she got married, so in the 1940's she bought the house on 205 Broadway in Casa, Arkansas.  To make the payments she walked five miles one way to the schoolhouse to teach elementary-aged children every weekday.
 She was a good teacher.  The house had many bookshelves built in and she didn't know it then but they would all one day be filled with knick-knacks and collectables brought to her by all her students.
 "She could still tell you years later which student brought her which gift," Shirley Bridgeman, Dorman's niece, said.
Eventually she met her husband, a Baptist minister.  They moved to another town for him to preach but Jessie left her sister and parents to care for the house, to which she and her husband returned after only a few years. 
Casa in those days was a booming little town and Jessie's house, and her yard, were well known.  The Dormans, the minister and the teacher, lived right across the street from the doctor.  On weekends Jessie could be seen working in her yard with her azaleas, flowers everywhere in full bloom.
"The yard was the main thing," Bridgeman said.  "People would drive by just to see it."
As a Baptist minister Jessie's husband would often meet with couples planning to get married, sometimes he would meet with them at his house, and when he did they sometimes asked if they could have their wedding there.
"It was so beautiful," Bridgeman said.  "There have been lots of weddings on that property."
Jessie and her husband lived happily in the home for many years.  Jessie is now in a nursing home, one of two of her eight siblings who have not battled cancer and the family has made the bittersweet decision to sell the house.
There are some houses that just feel warm and welcoming for no particular reason.  Some people say it's the "energy" of the home, others believe it's "place memory."  In this case maybe was all the weddings, the joy of two people starting their lives together imprinted on the property.  Maybe it was the flowers, with all their vibrance and colors lending their life to the home.  It could have been the children and their youthful enthusiasm with their gifts for their favorite teacher.  Maybe it was Jessie in her garden, her husband helping perhaps, the doctor waving from across the street as friends drove by to see her flowers.  Whatever it is, 205 Broadway is one of those homes.