Paul Ramirez's star has risen relatively quickly in the five years since he's been a full-time auctioneer.
He won the International Livestock Auctioneer Championship last year. He's a cast member on the TLC show "Auctioneer$." And now he's on his way to the Super Bowl - or World Series, if you prefer - of livestock auction contests, the 2011 World Livestock Auctioneer Championship, to be held in June in Williamston, S.C.
Though he worked for Arizona Feeds for the better part of two decades before seriously turning his attention to auctioneering, Ramirez, 46, said the seed was planted while he was still attending Amphitheater High School, from which he graduated in 1983.
Back then, he worked at Nelson Livestock Auction, cleaning stalls and ushering cattle in and out of the auction area.
Proprietor Jack Nelson kept telling Ramirez what a great auctioneer he would make.
"I think he saw that I liked people and I like cattle," Ramirez said.
Between other pursuits, Ramirez graduated from the Worldwide College of Auctioneering in Iowa in 1991, but he didn't get started in the auction business until 1997. He went on to graduate from the World Champion College of Auctioneering in California in 2002, and he's been in the profession full-time since 2005.
After Nelson's encouragement, Ramirez says he owes a lot of where he is now to Marana's Clay Parsons, who gave him his first auctioneering gigs at the Marana Stockyards.
"You have to be good to sell, but the only way you get good is by selling," Ramirez said. It can present a conundrum to people just getting into the business, and Parsons offered him the break he needed.
Not that cattle is the only kind of auctioneering he does.
He can do a cattle auction in the morning, an auction of police items in the afternoon and a black-tie affair in the evening, he said.
He's done plenty of charity auctions, though when selling to the public he slows his speech a bit, he said.
"Auctioneering is a relationship between the auctioneer and the buyers," he said. If he sees a lot of people making faces in the audience, he knows there's either a problem with the public-address system or he's talking too fast.
For the upcoming World Livestock Auctioneer Championship, Ramirez will be one of 33 contestants.
The Livestock Marketing Association, the contest's sponsor, holds four qualifying competitions and takes the top eight finishers from each, as well as the Canadian champion, and sends them to the big event, said association spokesman John McBride.
Ramirez was named "reserve champion" - second place - in the second qualifying contest in October.
"These guys, some of them would crawl on broken glass to get to the championship because it means so much to them," McBride said.
And once you've been named world champion, you can never re-enter the contest, so champions never have to worry about defending their titles, he said.
The contest is a real livestock auction at which judges look for vocal clarity and quality and the general way in which auctioneers conduct a sale, McBride said.
"It's not a sham sale or a demonstration," he said.
The judges have their own livestock marketing businesses, and they are asked whether each contestant is someone they would consider hiring.
Ramirez said if he were to win, he'd appreciate having the additional credential because he'd like to train auctioneers who are new to the business, and such people prefer to learn from the best.
Being a good auctioneer has meant more than awards for Ramirez, who with his wife owns a nice-sized east-side home, complete with two Christmas trees. He says the vocation has allowed him to travel and meet celebrities.
Doing a good job at an auction can make a world of difference to the sellers, he said, noting that getting just 25 cents more for everything in an auction can mean thousands more dollars for the sellers in the end. Getting 50 cents or $1 more makes the overall increase even more pronounced.
"A rancher can be sending in all the cattle he's raised all year, to sell in one day," Ramirez said. "His whole paycheck for the year comes in one day."
Contact reporter Shelley Shelton at email@example.com or 807-8464.