Transcript/Biography

Up
Down

[Hank 1987:] "Good steak sandwiches, I think, is what we're going to have today."
     [Bonnie, laughing:] "Not hardly."
     [John:] "What did corn do today?"
     [Hank:] "Corn? It was higher this morning when I listened, but I don't know if it will stay that way or not. The market's kind of rallied a little bit, they talked about. "
     [John:] "It went up 7-cents yesterday."
     [Narrator:] "The noontime market news is still important to Hank and Bonnie Kobza even though it's their son John who now owns the corn that they're helping to harvest."
     [John:] "I hate to get started this way, by putting Dad out. But that's the way it had to happen, I guess."
     [Hank:] "Well, I tell you. The best I can say, I think I aged 10 years in one. And, you don't sleep nights. It's a constant worry."
     [Bonnie:] "I think I tried to hold Hank together more than anything else. Until the time when it actually got down to the last week, or so, when we had given them the deadline of – 'This is what we have to offer and this is what we want to do and will you accept it or not?' – that's when it really hit me. I was pretty shook up most of the time."
     [Hank:] "We got out of the FDIC files, I guess is the best way I could put it. And it's one of the best feelings, I guess, I've had in years that I remember. John has taken over the farming, and I help John farm. We have the real estate and auction business. And so far, we've been lucky to pick up a few sales that they have kept us going."
     [Narrator:] "Like many who leave farming, Hank wanted a new career close to home. He found one. An auction business has kept Hank's family together and provided part-time jobs for family and friends."
     [Tuffy:] "Well, hello there, sweetheart. How we doing? [Laughing.] My day's gone."
     [Hank:] "The little things generally sell first. You always try to keep your bigger things for the end."
     [Question:] "How do you think this one's going to go?"
     "Hopefully, good. I eat a lot of different types of Rolaids and things like that before every sale, you know, worrying. I guess it don't do any good to worry."
     [Question:] "How come you're worried?"
     "To try to do a good job, I guess, because I know that for a lot of these people it's their life savings or whatever they might have."
     [Question:] "Does it ever bother you that you're selling out your neighbors?"
     "You bet. Definitely, without a doubt. And I tell you during this farm crisis thing that's entered many, many times because I fought it and I know what they are fighting. I think it's related. Maybe if I wouldn't have gone through it I wouldn't have realized how bad it really is. But this way, I know. "
     [Woman's Question:] "How's Bonnie?"
     "Oh, pretty good. She's mean, you know."
     "Oh, no she's not. [Laughing.]"
     "Good afternoon to you ladies and gentlemen. Happy to have you at the sale here today for Ben Burish. Appreciate having you. Come and see us again sometime when we're lucky enough to have one, would you? [He begins the auction call.]"
     [Narrator:] "In rural communities, an auction is several things as once. In a sense, it could be the end of a chapter in the life of a neighbor. In another, it's a social gathering. And it's also a bargain basement where you never know what you'll come away with." …
     [Tuffy:] "It's running, Hank."
     [Hank:] "I'm sure that it is, Tuffy. Sounds good. Three speed [pickup truck], six cylinder, and I think all of you have looked at it. Who'll give me a thousand dollars for it? [Bidding …] I'm going to sell you the pickup, but I'm going to tell you one thing. Take a look at the pickup. Look at the mileage it's got. And then tell me where you're going to go to a dealer's lot and you're going to buy a better one."
     [Tuffy:] "You can't find them, Hank."
     "You know who owned this one. To me that means something. Spend your money the way you want, but when I get done don't tell me it's cheap because you're all standing out there watching. [Bidding …] Sold, $2,000. Number 51. Did I sell all I was supposed to, Rainey? On behalf of Ben Burish, thank you for being here today. Appreciate having you. Come and see us again, some time. We'd sure like to have you. Thank you very much."
     [Rainey:] "I thought the sale went fine. The pickup brought good money."
     [Question:] "Ben didn't come out for this, did he?"
     [Rainey:] "No."
     [Question:] "How long did he live out at this place?"
     [Rainey:] "Oh, maybe about 35 years – 35 to 40 years."
     [Question:] "So, in essence, in four hours you sold off what it took 35 years to accumulate."
     [Hank:] "That's exactly right. And I'm sure Ben's going to be anxious to know how it goes today, and I'm sure he's going to ask his friends and neighbors how things went. And I worry about those things, too, because you want to do a good job for him. Hopefully, we did. I sure hope so. We tried. [Laughs.]"
     [Taking a photograph:] "Is everybody in there?"
     [Hank in 2007:] "I always loved the auction business. When I went to sales with my dad, I always thought, 'I wish I could do it. I just wish I could do it.' I never had guts enough.
     "And one day my wife seen an ad in the paper for this auction school. So, she said, 'Hank, they're going to have an auction school in Mason City, Iowa.'
     "And I said, 'Yeah, that would be alright.'
     "She said, 'You know, you ought to go.'
     "I said, 'I don't have the money to go.' At that time it was like $235, or something like that, you had to send in ahead of time. So, I said, 'Oh, I don't know.' So, my wife sent it in. And the closer it got to the time to go, I said, 'I got this to do, I got that to do, I got this to do.'
     "She said, 'No way! We ain't throwing that money away. You go.'
     "So I took off for Mason City, Iowa. And I went to auction school there. Otherwise, I'd have probably chickened out. I was scared to death because when I went there I didn't know what to expect… But, I thought there was some guys and gals that were in the same boat I was. And so, by the time we got done, we all knew each other, and it wasn't so bad to get up in front of the crowd as it first was. That first time, I mean, I don't think my knees bent all day. I was scared. So, it was an experience, and if it wouldn't have been for my wife, I probably wouldn't have went. But she said, "Hank, you better go. We paid the money and you go." So I did. So, I think it was two weeks, or two-and-a-half weeks, or something like that. They just kind of give you an idea of what to do. The rest of it, you got to do on your own… And our kids all had to work in the auction business whether they wanted to or they didn't because it was a necessity and we needed help. So, our two oldest ones stayed with us…"
     [Question:] "How old are you now?"
     "I'm 71."
     [Question:] "How long are you going to keep auctioneering?"
     "I feel pretty good, yet. I'd like to keep going. And one of these days the good Lord is going to tell me, 'That's it.' And, I suppose that'll be the day. I still get a kick out of being able to take an item and get a good price for a seller. I still get a kick out of that. Maybe that's why I wanted to be in this business at the time that I went to sales with my dad. There's something about it that gives you just a little kick, you know. When I can see a smile on a seller's face, I feel that we're doing pretty good. I'd like to continue as long as my health holds out."

Hank Kobza – Hank's Auction Business

   

Excerpts from Hank Kobza’s Interview:

Logic of Large Farms
After Hank's Last Harvest
Women in Agriculture
Living in the Country
Internet Over Encyclopedias
Huge Farm Equipment