Monday, September 26, 2005

Let the bidding begin: Frequent auction visits lead men to start their own


BRADLEY - Curtis Barfield and Bobby Russell have seldom visited an auction they didn't like.

They've also seldom seen one they didn't think could be improved.

So it was only natural that the two Jones County men, who became friends after they kept bumping into each other at various auctions across Georgia, would decide to start their own when casting about for a new business venture.

Thus Bradley Wayside Auction Inc. was born.

Named for the two small communities on Ga. 11 a few miles north of Gray, the men rented the old Bradley Elementary School building from the county in early 2003 and converted part of it into a livestock auction house. They built sheds and holding pens where buses once picked up and dropped off children, and they converted the old auditorium/gym into an auction hall. A couple of classrooms were turned into offices, and they turned the cafeteria into a snack bar.

"We have good hamburgers. Some people come just to eat and for the entertainment in watching the auctions," said Barfield, 66. "They don't bid on anything. It's just something to do on a Saturday night."

But plenty of others arrive at the auction to sell and buy small farm animals.

Chickens, guineas, pheasants, turkeys, geese, rabbits, sheep and goats are regularly bought and sold at the weekly Saturday night auctions. Parakeets and other pet birds and animals also are sold on occasion.

"If somebody brings them, we'll auction them," Barfield said. "We've got a license to sell pigs, too, but we don't. They're too messy and smell too bad."

The men also don't handle cattle and horses.

"We don't have space for large animals like that," Barfield said.

Occasionally people who grew up on farms and now live in urban and suburban areas visit the auctions to remember the days when they worked with livestock. But the auctions aren't designed with nostalgia in mind.

"The regulars are mostly people who raise livestock as a business. It's a second business or hobby business for a lot of them, but they're bringing animals to sell and make a little money," said Russell, 63.

Some buyers are getting animals to raise as pets, but others are buying them to butcher and eat themselves or to resell to others for food.

"We have people coming from Atlanta and other cities every week to buy goats to take home to eat," Barfield said. "Most of them are from Mexico or India or somewhere where goats are a regular part of people's diets."

"We also have people who buy laying hens to raise their own eggs," Russell added. "They taste a lot better than the ones you buy in stores."

The weekly auctions begin at 6 p.m. with the sale of farm equipment and supplies. Then they begin selling animals, goats first, at 7 p.m.

"We go until we finish - usually between 10:30 to 12. It just depends on how many animals we have and how hot the bidding is," Barfield said.

Russell does most of the auctioneering, and Barfield keeps things organized, seeing that the animals are moved to the auction floor, then to the loading area behind the old school after they are sold, and that the buyers and sellers find their way to the pay windows in the office.

Russell has been an auctioneer since 1992. In addition to working at the Bradley Wayside Auction, he also works regularly doing charity and fund-raising auctions for various companies and groups.

"I do a lot of wildlife group auctions and things such as that," he said. "I just love auctions."

Russell also has sold real estate and continues to help his wife, Realtor Gloria Griffis, with her work.

Russell is a Jones County native and still lives in the house where he was born near Juliette.

Barfield grew up in Crisp County but moved to Jones County after four years in the Air Force.

"My parents moved up here while I was in service, so when I got out, I came this way, too. I live in Gray now," he said. "It's a good place to live."

Barfield has retired twice, first as a pipefitter commuting to jobs in the Atlanta area, and then from Jones County where he was the litter control officer.

"I was still working for the county when we decided to try getting this auction going," Barfield said. "Since we were renting the building from the county, I figured it would be best not to also be working for them, so I retired again."

He also is now a licensed auctioneer.

"I went to school so I could fill in for Bobby when he needs a break or has to be away to do another auction somewhere," Barfield said. "I do OK, but he's a lot better. He's an artist."

In addition to their weekly livestock auction, the men also have a general merchandise auction on the first and third Fridays of the month.

"We had someone bringing in used and returned appliances on third Fridays, but they're not doing that anymore, so its just whatever people bring to sell," Barfield said.

They also hold charity auctions when they're asked to take part in fund-raisers for local groups and individuals.

They charge 10 percent commission on goats and 16 percent on all other animals and merchandise sold.

"We make a little money, enough to keep it going, but I'm glad it isn't my only income," Russell said.

"We sure aren't getting rich, but we're having fun," Barfield added. "It keeps us young."



Job: Co-owner of Bradley Wayside Auction Inc.
Birthplace: Cordele
Education: Crisp County High School
Past jobs: Pipefitter and litter enforcement officer
Secret to success: 'Making sure we have a family atmosphere where people can come to relax and have a good time. We want people to enjoy themselves, whether they come just to watch or to buy and sell.'


Job: Co-owner of Bradley Wayside Auction Inc.
Birthplace: Jones County
Education: Jones County High School, Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College
Past jobs: Land sales
Secret to success: 'Treat people fairly and be as organized as possible to keep the auctions moving along.'