WEST POINT (AP) — It is high noon on Thursday at the south end of West Point off Highway 275.
There is lots of traffic moving in and about. The graveled parking lot is overflowing with pickups, cars and livestock trailers.
License plates indicate vehicles from several surrounding counties at the sale barn.
West Point Livestock is a West Point classic. The place for buyers and sellers of livestock goes back to the early 1900s.
In 1982, the livestock sale barn was rebuilt into a clean, modern, air-conditioned center of business activity with regular Thursday sales and special seasonal sales.
The flag waves from the pole next to the West Point Livestock sign. The hot July weather seems to push the crowd indoors, where they are welcomed to the bright, air conditioned lobby by longtime employee Steve Weiler. Men linger in conversation, and sales clerks Melann Wiechmann and Diana Kreikemeier keep track of the proceedings.
The first stop and the most popular place for all is the café, which opens at 5 a.m. Monday through Thursday.
“The café is a good sideline to the business,” said Pam Wordekemper, operator and head cook.
“No fancy stuff. At noon, it is basic hearty meat and potatoes home cooking topped with a slice of cream or fruit pie,” Wordekemper said. “This season, it is mostly fruit pies. On sale days, I usually make a special dessert. In this weather we serve a lot of iced tea.”
Wordekemper learned her cooking and seasoning skills from her mother, Ione Bleimeister, a well-known restaurant owner and cook.
Wordekemper is known around town for her famous potato salad. Using her mother’s recipe, she already has orders for 30 gallons of potato salad for August.
After food, follow the distant rumblings of the auctioneer voice up the stairs through the door to the distinct smell of cattle to the sales ring.
More than 100 people are sitting on the carpeted bleachers that rise to the top of the barn.
The side bleachers are nearly filled with multiple generations, from toddlers to grandmas. More entertaining than a circus or zoo, they watch and listen to the chant.
Farmers with seed-corn caps and cowboy boots line the bleachers, but interested kids stand watching the action. A teenager closes her cellphone to watch the activities. Babies in arms sleep peacefully.
This is a cow/calf sale. In the auction ring, the hydraulic gates open to admit the cow and her calf.
The frightened cow, protecting her calf, walks back and forth momentarily, looking for an exit. With the auctioneer’s cry, “Sold,” the hydraulic exit gate opens to the captive cow and calf who make a brisk exit.
Next came a little herd of six calves and their six mama cows.
Once in the auction ring, the digital electronic board states the herd count, average weight, total weight and price.
Group after group moved through the auction ring. Will Epperly of Dunlap, Iowa, was the auctioneer. Several hundred head were sold.
Jim Schaben Jr. and Jon Schaben of Dunlap, Iowa, are owners. They have been since October 2006.
The sale barn was built in 1939, but the new building was built in 1981. It has served multiple generations of livestock producers.
Gradually the crowd clears out. Buyers and sellers exchange checks. It’s a good day as action moves outdoors.
Some trailers were going home empty while others were loading livestock and taking off for greener pastures.
“This is an enjoyable place,” said Brian Brester, who has managed the sale barn for eight years.