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American Talkers: The Auctioneer

Moving down rows of piled tobacco with an entourage of bidders and clerks, auctioneer Bob Cage refers to his sale as a train. "As I'm crying the bids, they've got to get on or they're going to miss the tobacco." Once he "gets clicking," the sale builds momentum, and the buyers must put in their bids before the final call. "I'm going to cry a bid a few times, and then I'm going to WHACK IT."

The livestock or antique auctioneer works up an audience with a barrage of fast talk, musical sound, and humorous quips. He pits members of his audience against one another. If a person bids 5, he'll say, "Do I hear 6?" If he doesn't hear 6, he keeps the ...

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