Friday, 4 March 2011

Funeral speech - part 1: The farm sale

I came across a dog eared version of this a few weeks back while clearing out some drawers and I enjoyed reading it again a few years on and thought I'd add it here even though it doesn't strictly fit. I've just included the snapshot bits in two parts (to avoid clogging the screen up too much) - this one was my part on the farm sale and the other is Paul's from the family holiday.

I start with Dad the working man that consumed so much of his life. Carrying the John Kerr name, I initially started to follow in the hallowed footsteps of my father and grand father in the agricultural auctioneering business at Thimbleby & Shorland. I often worked the school holidays at Reading cattle market and at various farm dispersal sales, and it is these that I would like to recall.

In my admittedly rose tinted view of the past, this farm sale is on one of those endless summers’ days in the rolling fields of England’s picture postcard countryside. The day before the auction is spent preparing. Dad is at his most content as he views and values the cattle – simply by thrusting his hand between a cows legs and having a good rummage around the udders he is somehow able to accurately age, value and give the expected milk yield of the by now rather startled cow.

The rest of the day is spent setting up a make shift arena using bails of straw, building the relationship with the farmer (always a strong point of his) and documenting the herd individually. While Dad is checking Buttercup’s details and admiring the “hind three quarters” (or something of that sort) I tackle the rather more hair raising task of plastering the cows behind with a patch of toffee-like glue using a wooden spoon and then sticking on a lot number.

The day of the auction is to see my father in his element. His is an effortless, if somewhat pedestrian auctioneering style but all the while, behind the bluff and the banter, you can see him working hard to do his job to the utmost of his ability: He works the characters in the crowd with the same old corny gags, draws from a deep knowledge and appreciation of cattle and uses his skill as an auctioneer to build up the demand for each lot.

With the sale over, I am at liberty to relax and check out the sold farm machinery lots – often apparently scrap bits of metal that he had somehow got good money for. But Dad is still there, working hard for the client and helping out wherever or whoever needs it. Finally, with the last guinea counted and lot picked up, we are the last people left and he drives us home. His dedication, integrity, hard work and way with people are the hallmarks of his career and things that, to this day, I strive to match.

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