Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Someone I Wish I Knew

I think Josh Johnson was the first person to give me the feeling. 
He didn't know he gave it to me; it was never Josh's intention. 
It is fair to say nothing that happened on July 14, 2002 was. 
His untimely death riveted our small Indiana town. 
Nevermore would we see his smile or experience his kind heart. 
After his funeral I remember driving back to our county fair thinking, "I wish I knew Josh better..."

I suppose while Josh was the first person that I recognized the feeling with, as I matured - and life happened - others have died and planted the same, dreadful thought in my mind:

I wish I would have known them better. 

Lost opportunity. Lost conversations. Lost lessons. Lost life. 

Last evening Cody called and told me that Ray Sims, said to be the greatest livestock auctioneer in history, passed away in Kansas City. He is the latest addition the exclusive list of people lost whom I wish I knew. I was supposed to interview Ray for this blog in less than a month: Friday, October 5th. 

Before we go on, watch a bit of Ray's incredible story:

We just enjoyed visiting with Ray in July at the National Junior Angus Show.

When I met Ray I knew little about his life's story. This only filled my head with 1,000 questions I wanted to ask - about the things he had seen after traveling North America for decades, the livestock he witnessed move through the ring as an auctioneer for 46 years and the United States Presidents he called friends over the duration of his 90-year life. 

 Ray auctioneering as President John F. Kennedy evaluates to the left

Ray reminded me a lot of my Granddad Shafer. 
If it involved cattle, neither thought twice about cruising across the country, logging hundreds of miles in one day. 
They both had the same age spots on their hands the last time I saw them. 

While I wasn't around Ray nearly as much as my soul desired, I was still able to ask him a bit about his life's journey. 

Ray grew up on a stock farm in Missouri but went to autioneer school in Indiana. While a college degree was his intention, his unique ability to auctioneer was quickly noticed and Ray's schedule soon filled with chanting obligations, rather than college courses. 

Ray was known as a game changer in the livestock marketing industry. His approach to selling stock was simple: develop a quick paced chant that encouraged bidders to make decisions. These exciting, quicker auctions brought more buyers to the sale, more money to the table and moved more cattle than ever before. No longer were the days of long, sermon-like sale experiences. 

Ray went on sell cattle from coast to coast, border to border. 

In 1967 the movie "What Am I Bid" featured Leroy Van Dyke's hit single, "Auctioneer."
Said auctioneer, whom the song was about, was Ray Sims. 

Watch him chant here in the white hat -  

Ray was inducted into the Angus Heritage Foundation in 1989 and the National Auctioneers Association Hall of Fame in 1990. 
At the 2010 North American International Livestock Exposition Ray was inducted into Saddle and Sirloin Club - the first auctioneer to ever receive that life honor. Induction into the Saddle and Sirloin Club is the highest honor given in the American livestock industry. 

Finally, just two months ago at the 2012 National Junior Angus Show Ray was finally able to see his Saddle and Sirloin Portrait hanging amongst other legends. Founded in 1903, the Saddle and Sirloin Portrait Collection is an incredible collection of oil paintings that honor outstanding leaders in the livestock world over the past 300 years. The oil portraits hang in the West Wing of the exposition hall in Louisville. Check them out this November. 

I think about Ray and get that knot in my stomach, realizing the missed opportunity to know him - his story - better. What an incredible resource of production agriculture history. 

Image from 1965 Angus Journal

I've always believed that when an old man dies, 
it is as if a library burns to the ground. 
Well, as of last night a whole lot of Angus Journals rest in ash. 

So long, Mr. Sims - Enjoy that auction block in the sky 


  1. what a tribute. love the ending. and i think i will remember that analogy of burning a library to the ground.

  2. You are a truly gifted communicator, both in words and images.

  3. Wow - this brought back sooooo many memories - makes me misty-eyed.