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.

Questions Answered

Attending an auction for the first time can be a little intimidating.  All I knew of auctions when I married my husband was what I had seen on TV: the indecipherable babble of the auctioneer, the even more indecipherable nodding of heads to confirm a bid, the numbers, crowds, and confusion.  What I found when I started attending auctions was very different.  The babble of the auctioneer took on meaning, the nodding of heads had a point, the numbers, crowds, and confusion achieved order and the atmosphere of the event was enjoyable, exciting, and something that I looked forward to at the end of each week.  First-time auction-goers sometimes have questions, I did and I certainly didn't want to ask seasoned veterans, so here are the answers to a few of the questions I had:

Q:  Will I understand the auctioneer?
A:  In a word, yes.  The auction chant is comprised of a series of numbers and filler words.  The auctioneer will start the bid on a specific number, "five" for example, then some filler words that are there to keep the rhythm of the chant (which is what I recognized as the indecipherable babble), then the auctioneer will look for a higher bid by saying and repeating the next number he's looking for, "ten" for example.  When he gets that, he'll go up to fifteen and so on.  

Q:  How do I bid on an item?
A:  When you check in at the auction trailer you'll be asked to give your name, address, and phone number which will be entered into the computer and a number will be assigned to you. You'll be given a bid card with that number on it.  If an item comes up that you wish to bid on you simply raise your card high enough for the auctioneer to see it.  In some instances the crowd is large and the auctioneer can't always have his eyes on all the people.  That is what ringmen are for.  There will often be about two or three people working with the auctioneer to catch bids, these are the ringmen.  They are always scanning the crowd and looking for bids and when they see someone trying to bid they'll get the auctioneer's attention and work with the bidder to make sure that they're getting it in.

Q:  Can I pay for my items any time or do I have to stay until the auction is over?
A:  The clerk is always near the auctioneer entering information into the computer.  The first thing the clerk enters is an item description, then the price for which the item sold, and the bidder number of the person who bought the item.  The computer that the clerk uses is linked via modem to the computer in the auction trailer so that as soon as the clerk enters the information on an item into her computer it is immediately accessible from the computer in the trailer.  So, if you wish to leave before the auction is over you can pay out at the trailer at any time.

Q:  Is it possible to bid on something without meaning to?
A:  Sometimes the auctioneer will take a bid from a person who didn't mean to bid, but usually the auctioneer and ringmen make eye contact and either gesture or nod their heads to make sure that they've got your bid.  If you do end up bidding on an item unintentionally the auctioneer will start the bidding again with the person who had the next highest bid, and it's not a big deal so don't worry.

Q:  Do I need to bring cash?
A:  Spear Auctioneers accepts cash, checks, and credit cards. 

Q:  What if I purchase I large item that won't fit in my car?
A:  Many times an auction site, especially one where there are lots of large items or equipment, will be open long after the auction for people to get their stuff.  Arrangements can usually be made to return the next day with a truck or larger vehicle.  Sellers tend to be very willing to work with you to make sure that you get your purchases.  

Q:  Is there any kind of warranty on the stuff I buy?
A:  Items sold by auction are sold "as is," but when there are vehicles or equipment the crew will usually try to start them up and see if and how they're running so people have a better idea of what they're bidding on.

Q:  If I'm only interested in one item, how do I know when it will come up for bidding?
A:  The auctioneer tries to move through a sale in order.  If he jumps around a lot it becomes more possible that he'll miss something.  High-dollar items such as vehicles and real estate will usually be sold at a scheduled time because most of the buyers for those items are there specifically for them.  Other items like coins, jewelry, guns, and collectibles are often sold at the beginning of a sale.

Q:  Is there anything to eat or drink there?
A:  There is usually a concession stand that sells hot dogs, hamburgers, sodas, chips, and bar-be-que that "smells so good I nearly bit someone," as ringman and auctioneer Don Dougan says.

Q:  Can I bring the kids?
A:  Absolutely!  An auction is a really fun way to spend a Saturday with the family.

If anyone has any questions that have not been answered here, please feel free to email me (my address can be found on my profile) or contact Spear Auctioneers.  Don't be intimidated if you're thinking of attending an auction for the first time.  Auctions are not nearly as confusing as they make them seem on TV.  They're a lot of fun whether you're just checking things out or planning some large purchases.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Customers and Friends

We're always glad when we see them coming, Big Bill in his big overalls and Patty in her smile. If you're standing next to Justin when they arrive, you'll hear her greet him with "hey good lookin', what you got cookin'?"  
Bill and Patty Austin have been doing business with Spear Auctioneers for nearly 20 years, and while they're out of town on business a lot you'll know when they're home because they'll be at every one of Spear Auctioneer's auctions, and recently they were on the selling end.
"Richard made us a lot of money, I'm tickled to death about it," Patty said.  "I'm thrilled to be able to use his resources."
Patty laughed about a yard ornament of a fish that she's "not ashamed to say" she bought at a yard sale for $20 dollars.  She said she thought she'd use it, but never did and ended up putting it in the auction as an afterthought.
"During the auction I heard people saying 'get to the fish, Richard, get to the fish!'  He ended up selling it for $185!  I was thrilled!" she said.
"I've never had anything but good dealings with Richard," Bill added.  "He's the utmost professional."
Bill and Patty are like family at Spear Auctioneers auctions and for good reason.  Patty says they try to hit every one of Richard's auctions and they'll stay all day and spend lots of money.
"That's just what we like to do," she said.
Like many people, the Austins attend auctions to get a good deal on a variety of items. They said that a lot of the things that they buy they resell and make a few bucks.  But getting a good deal is not the only thing that beings them to auctions.
"We like the whole atmosphere, everybody's in an upbeat mood, we've met lots of friends at auctions," Patty said.
Often they'll be the first ones to arrive and the last ones to leave.  They know the whole crew by name and even become part of the crew offering their expertise on items like jewelry and coins and on hot days bringing water to clerks and ringmen.
When they decided to have their own auction Patty said Spear Auctioneers was the obvious choice.
I talked with her on the phone for this piece and she paused for a second, Big Bill was saying something in the background.
Finally she said "here's a quote from Big Bill: '[the auction] was all that I hoped it would be and more than I expected.'"
"We're just thrilled with our experiences with Spear Auctioneers," Patty said.
Patty, Spear Auctioneers is thrilled with you and Big Bill, and all our loyal customers and friends. 



Sold! on the Auction Method

Gary Sullivan isn't an auction-goer as we in the business tend to think of them: those people who plan their weeks around which auctions they'll attend, who come pulling trailers in anticipation of the purchases they'll be making, who stop by the Spear Auctioneers office to check on upcoming dates or sometimes just to chat.  Gary Sullivan is a man who, as a lot of people have been, was put in charge of a relative's estate after a death, and his sister LaDoris J. Minson and her fiance Billy D. Pack, Sr. each had quite an estate. 
"There was a large quantity of stuff and Richard was recommended to me," Gary said, "plus my sister loved dealing with him, so I thought she'd like that."
The auction was scheduled for May 10, 2008.  As that day approached Richard and his crew spent their days preparing the property.  When it comes to real estate the appearance of the property makes a huge difference in the dollar amount it brings.  A nicely trimmed hedge-line could mean the difference between making the sale or not.  In Sullivan's case there was a lot more than just real estate too.  There were cars, tractors, machinery, trailers, and household items aplenty.  
"The preparation was excellent, the crew did an amazing job of getting things running," Sullivan said.  "I learned a lot."
Sullivan said that he was happy about how the sale did, that it went "even better than expected." 
 Since that auction Sullivan said that he's been to a few of Spear Auctioneer's auctions and enjoys them.  He may not be planning his weeks around sales yet, but he seems to be sold on the auction method as a way of liquidating an estate or selling real estate, "I would do it again and I would recommend it.  I was amazed."

Friday, February 20, 2009

Welcome to the Family

The auction business has traditionally been one of family.  A skill learned by a father, honed by a son, perfected by a grandson, and presented to each successive generation as a gift. That was the idea when Richard Spear began Spear Auctioneers, Inc. in Russellville, Arkansas.
Richard has a kind of quiet excitement for his job, a confidence and certainty that comes only from years of determined hard work first as a boy on the family farm in Lincoln, Kansas. His father was a carpenter and a farmer and you'd know it by looking at his hands.  My husband, his grandson, still delights in telling me about how, as a child, he couldn't wrap his whole hand around one of his fingers.  Richard has those hands, and my husband too, even our son who is only a year old has hands that, judging by the sheer size of them, must be Great-Grandad's.  
As a young man Richard worked two jobs, as a groundskeeper during the day and waiting tables at night, to put himself through college at Kansas State, then Mississippi College, and continued his schooling over the years at the Certified Auctioneers Institute and Graduate Realtors Institute.  After being drafted into the US Army during the Vietnam War he achieved a high-ranking position in communications, talking directly with men in the fields and jungles of Vietnam.  He was stationed in Germany and given a crypto-native clearance.  Maybe it was the years on the family farm that gave him his work ethic, it could be that waiting tables, having to earn tips for the money for school, developed his natural charm, and it's possible that those years serving in the Vietnam War, in the communications department, made him value words as a commodity.  He speaks not so much with urgency but with intensity, as if it's necessary for him to convey as much important information as possible as briefly as possible in a calm, definite way.
Richard met his wife, Neta, in Mississippi.  She grew up in Jackson in the 50's.  Her father rented juke boxes and was called at all hours of the night to go out to clubs and repair skipping records and broken machinery.  In a segregated South this was sometimes a dangerous job.  As it's told he had a gentile way about him, and his own measure of charm that allowed him to enter these clubs, and leave, without trouble from angry inebriated mobs desperate to hear Buddy Holly's "Peggy Sue." 
Her mother loved cats and was known to rescue litters of kittens from the sides of roads. The family still laughs about Bandit, an all black cat that may or may not have had some lynx in his blood.  Neta's mother fed the cat tuna from a can.  Neta's father spent his evenings in his easy chair, welding gloves on, armed with a rolled-up newspaper to defend himself from Bandit's imminent attack.  Despite a few bad experiences Neta still loves cats and has a heart for all animals.
Richard and Neta have been married for 40 years.  Neta was there 22 years ago when Richard began holding auctions in chicken houses for free just for the practice.  She was there addressing auction fliers and helping set up as he was able to make auctioneering his full-time job, and she's there today as Spear Auctioneers has become the Arkansas River Valley's  leading auction company.  You'll know her by her smile.  It lights up her eyes so that you can see your reflection in them, and you always look better in her eyes than you do to yourself.  It's a quality that she didn't learn attending business school, it was passed down to her and she, in turn, has passed it down.
Justin was born in 1973 and Julie two years later.  He grew up in a boy's world of hunting and fishing and epic games of kick-the-can, she a world of dresses and friends and dreams of the future.  Road trips to Kansas and Mississippi were filled with the sounds of Justin pestering Julie, Neta taming the children, and Richard perfecting his auctioneering chant using mile markers as bids.
Armed with his mother's smile and his father's charm Justin entered the sales world as a teenager.  He began by selling floor mats to car dealerships and soon moved on to selling insurance.  His easy way with people and their reciprocal ease with him earned him the title of one of the top producers for Life Investors Insurance company three years in a row.  He was the youngest person in the company to ever receive the award.  He eventually quit the insurance business and got his own auctioneering certificate.  Working full-time now with his dad as an auctioneer and a ringman, he continues to attract people and business.
Julie has that same ease with people.  I imagine high school halls, for her, were filled with laughter and joking and the greetings of friends.  I imagine this because even today, if you go anywhere with her, grocery store isles and neighboring restaurant tables are filled with the same sounds.  In true Spear fashion she worked her way through college at Arkansas Tech where she met her husband Todd Meimerstorf who is currently working as a loan officer at Arvest Bank here in Russellville.  Julie has a gift of talent for everything she does and an eye for detail that she's turned into her own business.  When she's not helping out at Spear Auctioneers she's painting canvases and tote bags, picture frames and plaques that she then sells at craft fairs and local businesses.  Like her parents before her she's found a niche and has capitalized on a natural talent.
The third generation of the Spear family is comprised of Holly, Hayden, Jenna, Landon, and new addition Story.  Holly, Hayden, and Story are Justin's, Jenna and Landon Julie's.  Holly is 12.  She is a princess and you can tell immediately that she's the oldest.  A caretaker from the beginning she was known to scold the floor for hitting her when she fell as a baby.  Hayden is 10 and he's a boy after his father's heart, riding dirt bikes, playing guitar, and encouraging his father in his current vice, purchasing exotic pets (we now have two iguanas and either three or four tortoises).  Story will be one on February 25th.  He's walking and babbling and likes to put things on his head and wedge himself into tight spaces. 
Jenna and Landon live just down the street.  Jenna, seven, works magic with Story.  She's always anxious to help with him and I'm always anxious to have her help.  Landon, four, idolizes Hayden and his first question to me is always "where's Hayden?"  Known for his bright red hair, he laughs a lot and always has something funny to say.
As for me I married into the Spear family three years ago and this is my impression:  I've never met a closer family, one who seems to work so hard for the good of the whole and who is dedicated without reservation to the eternal pursuit of happiness and the happiness of eternal pursuit.  An auction at Spear Auctioneers is the product of years of learning a business, but more than that it is the business of learning a family.  Each individual's talents have been distilled and refined into a specialty, all are maximized and utilized and come together in perfect proportion on auction day.
Every year at Spear Auctioneers brings new opportunities for changes and growth.  With auctioneering becoming a preferred method for liquidating estates and businesses and selling real estate even in an unstable economy, Spear Auctioneers maintains its title of "The River Valley's Leading Real Estate Auctioneers."  Holly, Hayden, Jenna, Landon, and Story all have the opportunity to build Spear Auctioneers into "Arkansas' Leading Real Estate Auctioneers," and their kids could take it to the next level and on and on into the future, a future that looks bright from here.
    Holly, Story, Hayden, Landon, and Jenna