Livestock is quickly paraded and sold in the auction hall. What goes on in the back, takes much longer. Here’s a look at the people who work behind the scenes.
Clouds of dust rise in the setting sun as another cattle trailer rolls towards the pen area at Abilene Livestock Auction. Cattle handlers scramble to close and latch the gates, tag the animals, shoo them off the trailer and into the pens.
The gate opens again, and there stands Ben Torres, scraping at brown spatter on his jeans with a stick, and later a pocket knife.
“Comes with the job,” Torres says philosophically. “Sometimes, cover you from here down,” he points to his chest. “It happens all the time. You can’t go home. You gotta stay alert.”
Dirt is to be expected every day out at the auction yard. James Shults, another handler, changes his shoes before going home, as fine white dust covers you up minutes after you arrive.
Dust and cattle squirts aside, most men enjoy their time working in the business.
“Being outside, working with cattle” are the best part of the job for John Marcee, 37. He’s been around auction yards since he was 2 or 3, when his father owned a set of pens and bought cattle for other people. He tried construction for a while, but the cattle business called to him.
Marcee says he’s learned a lot at Abilene Auction. “Especially talking to the older men out here. They have more knowledge than I’ve got.”