On Feb. 4, Burton Prunty was inducted into the Iowa Auctioneers Hall of Fame. Presenting the award was the 2016 inductee, Jeff Hoyer, left.
BURTON AND WIFE LINDA EXTOL VIRTUES OF WAYNE COUNTY DESPITE STRUGGLE OF SMALL TOWNS AND FAMILY FARMS
On Feb. 4 at the Iowa Auctioneers Association banquet at the Holiday Inn in Des Moines, Burton Prunty received the distinguished honor of induction into the Iowa Auctioneers Hall of Fame. His wife Linda had known about it since last December. But it was a Christmas gift she could not present to Burton until February.
“I could tell by his face he was surprised,” Linda said. “It was a fun time.”
“It was very humbling,” Burton said.
Giving the acceptance speech was easy for him—for a man accustomed to standing in front of a crowd for over five decades.
“He’s enjoyed working with the Association,” Linda said. “It’s been his life for a long time.”
Auctioneers come from all around the country to attend the IAA convention. One is Bryan Davenport from Boaz, Ala.
“The first time he came up there, we were right in the middle of a snowstorm,” Prunty said. “And he walked in there, and he was in shorts.”
“It was nice when he left down there,” Linda said.
“He’s a good guy, though,” Prunty laughed.
Burton and Linda have been married since New Years Day of 1969. They moved to just east of Clio in the spring, where they raised a family of four boys—Scott, Brent, Justin and Tim—all of whom graduated from Wayne Community High School in Corydon.
Burton graduated from Chariton Community High School in 1963, and grew up on a farm on the Marion side of the county line with Lucas, just north of what is now Pierce’s Pumpkin Patch. In the fall he attended the Missouri Auction School in Kansas City. He has been auctioneering ever since.
“That might not be where you learned,” Burton said, referring to the difference between education and real life experience. “You learn it by doing.”
One of his first auctioneering gigs was selling hound dogs. He also called every church sale around.
“The God’s portion sales,” Burton explained.
He worked the first Chariton machinery auction and sold at the Russell, Chariton and Humeston sale barns, among many other sites and sales. He has sold from Boone to Branson, Mo.
After attending Indian Hills Community College and receiving her BA in education from Concordia University in St. Paul, Minn., Linda was a long-time Head Start teacher. She has served as a substitute at Wayne Elementary School the past few years.
“I’ve always just loved kids,” Linda said.
One of Burton’s influences on the IAA is the implementation of professional training.
“Several years ago, they did not have any continuing education,” Burton said. “Mainly what they had was an auction contest, and once in a while they’d have some speakers.
“But me and Chad Shepard got to going to the leadership conferences down at the NAA [National Auctioneers Association] in Kansas City.
“I said to Chad one day, ‘What direction do we want to send this auctioneers association in?’
“I was in charge of the convention. So I came up with the idea to get continuing education for real estate. I was able to go to the Iowa Realty Commission and get them to qualify so we could get CE credits for the real estate. And also by attending their seminars, they were able to get their continuing education from the NAA certified. That’s when we started having different speakers from all over the United States coming in.”
Technology is quickly changing auctioneering, like it has everything else in the world today.
“Do you know we’re kind of robots anymore?” Burton said. “When we first started out, we had to take the sale bill around to every paper to get them printed. I thought the fax machine was an awful nice invention.”
“Now you can do it on the computer,” Linda said.
“You’ve made a lot of sale bills,” Burton said of his wife’s assistance to his profession.
Another thing that has changed with the times is the decreased number of auctions, which can be connected to the death of the small family farm.
“Most of the people we have done business with in the past have been family farmers,” Burton said. “And we’ve already sold out most of them. You can’t believe how much these [small] towns have changed from the 1960s until now.”
“The auction business has just changed,” Linda said. “There aren’t near as many auctions.”
“They don’t have to be face-to-face auctions anymore,” Burton said.
“They can do it on the Internet,” Linda explained.
“But you’d be surprised how many kids are moving back,” Burton added. “I think a lot of them feel like they can get a better education here. There are things you can do in Wayne County you cannot do anywhere else.
“There are the three musketeers over at Allerton that put on the play,” Burton said of Lorena Blount, Jackie Greenlee and Barb Mastin. “And they can take common, ordinary people—that people from Des Moines will drive down here to see the performance. And they say, ‘We can’t see anything better in Des Moines.’
“We’re very poor financially, but we’re very rich in other ways. We are blessed with some of these things. I really think that’s why some of these kids are moving back.”
Prunty’s creed, which has served him well throughout his life, is this:
“Don’t be impressed by money, followers, degrees and titles. Be impressed by kindness, integrity, humility and generosity.”
Though Linda grew up four miles south of Humeston and graduated from Mormon Trail Community High School in 1966, for the first 10 years of her life she lived on a farm just south of where Living History Farms now operates in Urbandale. It was a prison farm at the time.
“When Interstate 35 went through, of course they wouldn’t give Mom and Dad access to the other side of the road,” Linda said. I-35 was built in the late 1950s. “That’s why we moved down here.”
Where there are now the suburbs of Des Moines, there was once only farmland.
“Very rural,” Linda said. “It seemed like it was a long ways into West Des Moines. I tell my grandkids where that swimming pool is, my dad used to take me sledding down in there and pull us behind the tractor. We’d go wading in that creek.”
She attended Hanover country school less than a mile from her house. When her family moved to Wayne County after fourth grade, she attended country school at Clay Center.
Linda and Burton met at Nick’s Café at the junction of Highway 2 and 65.
“I was working there, and he was driving a truck then,” Linda said. The first time they met, they flipped a coin for ice cream. Burton won.
When asked about his future in auctioneering, Burton said simply, “I’ll be 72.”
“We’ll just have a sale once in a while,” Linda added. “I’d like to do a little more traveling if I could ever get him out of here.”