RED WING (AP) -- Dairy farmer, law enforcement officer, charter bus driver, seed corn salesman. Those occupations helped prepare Richard Houghton for his true calling -- as an auctioneer.
For 21 years, the Red Wing man has been auctioning off everything from cattle to crocks, farm machinery to furniture.
Recently, he was inducted into the Minnesota Auctioneers Hall of Fame during the Minnesota State Auctioneers Association convention at Treasure Island Resort and Casino.
Houghton, 57, was the 32nd auctioneer to earn the distinction since the Hall of Fame was established in 1988. Three more auctioneers were inducted along with him.
"Born and raised on a farm, he has continued to educate himself in every aspect of the business," said Lowell Gilbertson, executive vice president of the MAA.
Houghton is also a real-estate broker and past MAA director.
"This is indeed a real surprise and a pleasure," an emotional Houghton said when called to the podium. "I've thought about this since the Hall of Fame started. ... I thought maybe sometime down the road I'd see my name (added to the list). I never dreamed it'd be tonight."
During the presentation and afterward, Houghton credited the late Orlin Cordes, a Red Wing auctioneer, for getting him started in the business.
"The MAA is our family. We love each and every one of you dearly," Houghton said, facing his peers with his wife, Nancy, at his side.
Although he took a circuitous route to becoming an auctioneer, Houghton showed an interest early on when he was still farming South of Pine Island.
"When I was farming and growing up, we used to show a lot of cattle at fairs. That led me to helping neighbors get ready for their auctions when they sold out," Houghton said.
He got out of dairy farming in 1968, was the assistant police chief in Cannon Falls, then became a Goodhue County sheriff's dispatcher and deputy before taking a job with Lee Lines. When he attended auction school in Billings, Mont., he realized it was something he should have done years ago.
"I still enjoy selling cattle and machinery -- a great stoneware auction is good, too -- but my real dream was to become a professional cattle salesman," Houghton said.
But the cattle market declined, and Houghton found it necessary to diversify. Now he sells everything from antiques to real estate.
"In the auction business, you wear many hats. You're a counselor. You're their friend. You're everything to them to get them through (the sale)," Houghton said.
Sometimes, conditions were not pleasant. Farm foreclosures of the 1980s were especially tough.
"The auctioneer was not well liked by a lot of people because we sold them out to satisfy the debts," Houghton said.
Still, he said auctioneering is a good profession for those willing to work hard. That means not only preparing for the sale -- Houghton helps with the setup -- but also working the crowd when the sale is lagging.
"You have to use a little bit of humor with them, try to get them to relax. They came there for a reason. They might find a good deal. Some of them come out of curiosity. It's a way of working the crowd," Houghton said.
"It's still a good profession. I highly recommend it to people who want to work. It's all hours and weekends and all kinds of weather. It's very rewarding also."
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