3rd Generation Of Famed Thompson Auctioneer Family Fast-Talking Way To The Top

For three generations in Wyoming and Montana, the Thompsons have been the region’s famed fast-talking auctioneer family. It’s an art that’s in their blood, and they’re the best at it.

DK
Dale Killingbeck

July 07, 20247 min read

Three generations of auctioneers, Warren, Jace, and Ty Thompson, watch the proceedings at a livestock event.
Three generations of auctioneers, Warren, Jace, and Ty Thompson, watch the proceedings at a livestock event. (Courtesy Jace Thompson)

Jace Thompson recalls walking around the house as an 8- and 9-year-old attempting to talk as fast and rhythmic as his auctioneer dad.

And his granddad before him.

It’s no surprise that Thompson kids grow up with quick, loose tongues and ambition to be behind a microphone on weekends. In the Western livestock industry, everyone knows the Thompsons.

Patriarch Warren Thompson of Lander, Wyoming, forged a career as longtime auctioneer and former owner of the Riverton Livestock Auction. Warren marked a milestone last year for his 50 years as an auctioneer

His son, Ty, manages cattle sales at two stockyards in Billings, Montana, and is part owner of Northern Livestock Video Auction. He won the World Livestock Auctioneer Championship (WLAC) in 2009 and taught auctioneering.

Grandson Jace Thompson, 21, of Billings, was named Rookie of the Year at the World Livestock Auctioneer Championship held in Oklahoma City earlier this month and qualified for the WLAC.

“I’ve been around it my whole life and have never really done it for a job until about two-and-a-half or three years ago,” Jace said. “As I got into it, I got better at it. The industry kind of chose me instead of me choosing the industry, and I just kind of grabbed hold of it and it grabbed ahold of me.”

As the third generation behind a microphone who can rapidly fire dozens of syllables in the blink of an eye, Jace can add experience overseas in the Philippines and Southeast Asia to his resume. For more than a year, he flew overseas monthly selling construction equipment to foreign buyers.

The experience has increased his auctioneer savvy.

“I got really good working with people because it is kind of hard to auctioneer when they don’t speak the same language as you, so I got real good at communicating,” he said. “Just the more I’ve done it, whether it is the overseas stuff or whether it is just selling pots and pans auctions, or a pie auction in Holt (Montana) for the fire department, it’s all kind of compounded on itself in experience, it all grows on itself.”

  • The three generations of Thompson family continue to make their name in the world of livestock auctioneering. From left are Warren, Jace, Ty and Warren’s wife, Sherry.
    The three generations of Thompson family continue to make their name in the world of livestock auctioneering. From left are Warren, Jace, Ty and Warren’s wife, Sherry. (Courtesy Jace Thompson)
  • ace Thompson credits his grandfather Warren as one of the major influences in his expanding auctioneering career.
    ace Thompson credits his grandfather Warren as one of the major influences in his expanding auctioneering career. (Courtesy Jace Thompson)
  • Jace Thompson and his dad, Ty Thompson pose at the 2024 Livestock Marketing Association and World Livestock Auctioneer Championship in Oklahoma, earlier this month.
    Jace Thompson and his dad, Ty Thompson pose at the 2024 Livestock Marketing Association and World Livestock Auctioneer Championship in Oklahoma, earlier this month. (Courtesy Jace Thompson)

Fifth-Place World Finish

At the world competition, which had 30 other auctioneers, Jace placed fifth overall.

Before winning it all in 2009, his father Ty finished in the top 10 seven times. This year, Ty said he was proud of his son and both he and Warren were there to witness Jace’s performance.

“It’s a neat accomplishment. To win it is a real hard thing to achieve,” Ty said. “What was neat to see was his interaction with all the people at the convention and how solid he was in his auctioneering.”

The Thompson auctioneering dynasty hasn’t really been anything planned or engineered. Ty said he never tried to direct Jace to follow his footsteps, and his dad, who has moved into retirement, never tried to sway him either.

As a young man, Ty said he always wanted to be in the cattle business and be the man behind the microphone chanting for the bidders and getting the ranchers or consigners their best deals.

“Jace is a little different,” he said. “I would say he is quite a bit more well-rounded than I am. He has quite a bit of interests, but in the last year-and-a-half or so has really taken hold of auctioneering.

“I’ve definitely really helped in the last year as he’s got more into it, but as far as him developing his chant and developing his interest in auctioneering, he’s kind of done it on his own.”

A motocross racer in high school, Jace said following graduation he started thinking about what he wanted to do. After working around the livestock sales barns in Billings and then getting opportunities to call auctions, the path started to become clear.

At 21, he said his largest influences and mentors as an auctioneer have been his experiences with his dad and granddad, but he also has had opportunities to work with others in the industry and continues to try and learn as much as he can.

“I’ve had the chance over the past two years at some of these big sales to work with some of the best auctioneers in the world and some of the best ring men in the world and for some of the best sales in the world,” he said. “So, I’ve just been around a lot of really good examples, and I think that has helped a lot as well.”

The Skills

Both Jace and Ty agree that being an auctioneer is a lot more than the chant — those really fast words they speak — though that is important as well.

Auctioneers need to first know their market and what the product can bring in terms of sales. When it comes to cattle sales, it’s knowing what the current prices are and understanding where the market is going. They need to know what the buyers want and have a relationship with their consigners or sellers.

“You are selling their entire year’s income in about three minutes,” Ty said. “The first responsibility comes with the auction operators to ensure that you have enough buyers there and enough support of the market.

“The auctioneer’s role is to be the middleman and treat all the buyers fairly and the consigners fairly and your job is to gather up as much money as possible in the shortest amount of time.”

Discerning the bidders is also an important step in the process. When it comes to professional buyers, they like to be sneaky when making their bids.

“If it’s a professional order buyer or someone who buys cattle every day, they have a little more gamesmanship to it, whereas someone that is just buying once in a while, they are just there just to buy a certain group of cattle and they just want to get it done,” Ty said.

  • Jace Thompson has been named the rookie of the year auctioneer.
    Jace Thompson has been named the rookie of the year auctioneer. (Western Ag Network)
  • Ty Thompson performs his winning call during the 2009 World Livestock Auctioneer Championships.
    Ty Thompson performs his winning call during the 2009 World Livestock Auctioneer Championships. (Via YouTube)
  • Jace Thompson calls an auction in Montana.
    Jace Thompson calls an auction in Montana. (Montana Livestock Association)
  • Jace Thompson calls during the 2024 World Livestock Auctioneer Championships.
    Jace Thompson calls during the 2024 World Livestock Auctioneer Championships. (World Livestock Auctioneer Championships via YouTube)

Unpacking The Chant

About their chants, both men say each member of the family has their own unique style.

It’s more than just talking as fast as you can. It doesn’t matter how fast someone talks if the listener doesn’t know what you’re saying. Combined with a mesmerizing cadence, and an auctioneer is not only understood, he commands laser-like focus from his audience.

Ty said the chant boils down to just filler words between the bid numbers. He said his goal has always been to be clear and fast. Too many filler words mean “you can’t get the job done as fast as you’d like to.”

Different regions of the nation have their own styles of chants, Ty said. Many people go to auctioneer school to help develop their chants. While Ty did spend a year learning advancing his craft at a school, Jace has not.

But he’s been doing it for fun since “single digits” in age.

“A lot of people just develop their chant by listening to a lot of different auctioneers,” Ty said.

His go-to filler words?

“‘Dollar bid’ and ‘now’ are two things that I say,” Ty Thompson said.

A YouTube video clip shows a 5-year-old Jace Thompson selling horses and encouraging the crowd to “bid-’em up.”

Jace said he primarily sells cattle, horses, cars and bulls at this point in his budding career. The bulls are private sales and happen at the end of the year. Spring and summer mean he is doing a sale four or five days a week. In the fall it gets busier.

“In the fall I was doing it six days a week, sometimes two sales a day,” he said.

This rookie of the year plans to keep making the most of his opportunities.

“I’d like to keep going on and make a name for myself and stay learning and growing,” he said. “Then just see what comes next.”

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Dale Killingbeck can be reached at dale@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Dale Killingbeck

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Killingbeck is glad to be back in journalism after working for 18 years in corporate communications with a health system in northern Michigan. He spent the previous 16 years working for newspapers in western Michigan in various roles.