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[Begin Tape #1, Side #1]

KLEE: . . . with Mr. Bob Cage by John Klee for the Oral History Commission. The project is part of the tobacco industry project that I've been working with. The interview is being conducted in Maysville on February 6, 1986. Okay, I'd like to start with you about your background. Where you were born, what kind of environment you came up in and how it relates to the tobacco business.

CAGE: Well, I don't think my early life had much to do with what happened to me later in it. My mother and father were divorced when I was seven. Before that time, he worked on my grandfather's place.

KLEE: This was in?

CAGE: During the Depression, in . Being that my mother and father were divorced at seven, we . . . we moved to my grandfather. Was about the only place we had to go. My mother was pregnant, had myself and my brother. And he was . . . he was a traveling salesman, so other than working some summers, like when we were eight or nine or ten, helping suckering tobacco for about twenty . . . let's see, about a quarter a day, I think, they paid us. And our meal. And so we got . . . and that is . . . is about as much as I had to do with tobacco.

KLEE: Early contact?

CAGE: Right. Then later, when I went to school, went to high school in a little town called , well in they had a National Tobacco Festival. And which was a very big thing in those . . . for that little town because we had famous people coming in from and the governor and I remember James Farley being there, who was a big man for Roosevelt and all that sort of thing. So the tobacco festival was a big thing for us. And we saw tobacco in the fields, knew about it, but I never saw it auctioned 'til I was about twenty-seven years old.

KLEE: All right, now what were you doing . . .

CAGE: In the meantime . . .

KLEE: . . . in the early years?

CAGE: Well, I was . . . I was in the Marines. I was in college. I . . . I'd done all kinds of things. Was in the department . . . state Foreign Service and that . . . I was in teaching tennis and swimming at the Beverly Hills Hotel. And then at the Racquet Club and came home and my mother had married a gentleman who in the warehouse . . . tobacco warehouse business and I saw my first auction and I was totally fascinated by it. And I had been messing around . . . about lost my sense of value in , didn't know . . . when I came back and I decided well this is what I want to do. So I . . .

KLEE: How does . . . how does that happen? You . . . you found an interest?

CAGE: Yeah.

KLEE: How does . . . how do you . . . how did you start out with that then?

CAGE: All right, okay. Well, I had . . . soon as I saw this, instinctively I said, well you know, this suits me. I would . . . I'm gonna enjoy this. Found out the kind of money the guys made. I found out the hours, how much they worked, where they went, a lot about it. And I decided right then that I wanted to become a tobacco auctioneer. But I had a contract to fulfill in so I had to go back. And I took a couple of recordings of auctioneers back with me, and listened to them. And then practiced in the locker room of the Beverly Hills Hotel. At the . . . at the [inaudible] Pool Club and practiced. And a lady I was going with, was bidding . . . you know, bidding for me. And I practiced and just practiced the chant and practiced and practiced. And wrote numbers on the lockers, you know. Write two different numbers on it and start at one number and finish with the other and knock it out to American or Reynolds and did that just around the locker room. You know.

KLEE: So you were really convinced that that . . .

CAGE: Yeah.

KLEE: . . . you wanted to be an auctioneer?

CAGE: That was it.

KLEE: That . . . that part of the business?

CAGE: Yeah. I wanted . . . I just decided I wanted to get into something that was more fascinating than what I'd been doing. I'd been playing mainly. For . . . for a number of years. And . . .

KLEE: Now when you studied those chants, there are . . . there are significant differences . . .

CAGE: Yeah. Well you . . . you know, you can't . . . nobody can sing just like anybody else, or has the same intonation or the same resonance or the same structure of their mouth and their nose and, you know, the voice box and vocal cords, etc. But I did just take these records and they used to have the Lucky Strike Hit Parade years ago, and "Speed" Riggs, who was never a great auctioneer but had a good voice over the radio, and I used to imitate him and stuff like . . . still can do that. And I practiced and practiced and decided that this was gonna be my life. I found there's some very interesting things. You can learn a lot in one year, if you're intense enough about it. You can learn one hell of a lot if you really get intense about it. And I was.

KLEE: Now as you studied tobacco auctioneers, they're different than going to an auction in a . . . in a house, though.

CAGE: Right, it's different. It's quite different in that . . . that tobacco auctioneers are the fastest type of selling you can do. You can sell tobacco and . . . you can . . . then you also can sell antiques, the tobacco auctioneer can, or sell cars or sell livestock. I can sell anything. Because he can reduce his chant down. But, a guy who sells antiques or a guy who sells even livestock, cannot pick the chant up to the necessary pace it takes to conduct a real effective sale. So you can do the reverse. You know, you can slow it down. Right, so we can sell anything. I think. I mean, I've sold everything you can sell, at one time or another. But most of the other guys who sell other stuff can't sell tobacco. And I learned by . . . found out who the best auctioneers were and found out why they were better, they missed less bids, they had a more rhythmical chant. They got along better. Found out all these things, and studied under them and learned, you know, all on my own. I had enough money I'd saved, just . . . I didn't do something else. I just did that. Wherever there was a sale going, I was there watching and listening, and practicing.

KLEE: [inaudible] your own school of auctioneering.

CAGE: That's about it. That's it. And I've talked to a couple of people since then, done it the same way I did it, you know. Cause it . . . it was effective for me and it . . . I think . . . I haven't found any more effective way of doing it. Nobody else has come up with it; yet I don't [inaudible] run a school. You don't really learn a lot in auctioneering schools. It really is absolutely just school of experience. You know, you can learn a chant and you can learn the mechanics, but you've got . . . you've just got to get in there and take your hard knocks and miss bids and get chewed out and, you know, get out of breath, and say excuse me and I'm sorry and be able to handle it, you know.

KLEE: Now this was in the 1950's. Now which . . . which markets were you following then?

CAGE: Well, I went . . . first one I came to, I went . . . went to with a fella named Bill Martin to and he was selling dark fired tobacco. And that was . . . it turned out to be a good place to learn. That's the first time I ever sold any. I was mostly just practicing. Well, by the time I got in, I followed him so long and knew the habits of the buyers so well, I was pretty . . . I . . . I . . . kind of . . . I did all right.

KLEE: Do you remember a year on this? About when this was . . .

CAGE: About 195-, my guess would be `52 or 3. I'm . . . I'm . . . I don't have a very good recall about what happened ten years ago or five years ago. You know, that sort of thing? A lot of people do, but I certainly don't.

KLEE: Now he . . . you followed him on that market [inaudible].

CAGE: Right. Followed him on the market . . .

KLEE: . . . [inaudible] to you at all?

CAGE: No, he didn't turn it over. He just said, hey, I got a fella here who's learning to be an auctioneer. And asked the warehouseman could I get in. So I did and tobacco then, they started the tobacco, and the only way you went was up. It started . . . if it had a fifty dollar support, they'd start at fifty, and you would get one, two, and three. You didn't have to drop back and then get bids and go up again. So it made it fairly easy, you know. You at one, you at two, and you at three, and then go on with it. So . . . I just got a little bit . . . and then I went to . . . that was the next market in the spring. Went up there and got a job tending bar in the evenings, and . . . and [inaudible] on sale all day during the day, you know. And learned . . . I learned right much about it there. And got a chance to finish up that year . . . for forty-five dollars a week for a guy to go south. They . . . they had enough faith in me. And then I [inaudible] like that for about a half a year and the next year, I got a pretty good job.

KLEE: Tell me how that relationship works. Who actually employs an auctioneer?

CAGE: The warehouse firms. Like here in Maysville, there are about eleven different firms, and there are three auctioneers, and we're employed by all of them. And we're paid according to how much tobacco they sell. So [inaudible] we be paid more by the [inaudible] organization, say, than some of the others here, or maybe more by the independent or [inaudible] or some of the smaller. See, if we sell more tobacco in there, naturally we're gonna get paid more.

KLEE: How do these eleven warehousemen come together to decide on these three . . .

CAGE: Auctioneers? Well . . . it's . . . they'll have a committee and they get recommendations from buyers and from other auctioneers and we've . . . they've had an auctioneer change this year on this market. A friend of mine, Walter Wilkerson's coming here because an auctioneer retired. And left a hole here. And this is . . . they've always had . . . not because I'm here, but they've had . . . Maysville's had a reputation of having good auctioneers. They're willing to pay to get good ones and it's . . . I think it's paid off for them because the auctioneer is the backbone of the thing . . . it's an auction system and you . . . you don't . . . may not think so, but one . . . a guy who can drive . . . who will keep up a full head of steam and really keep a set of buyers interested and keep them energetic and moving, he has a great advantage over one who just goes through the numbers or gets a bid and who is just efficient. It's . . . it's that extra whatever. That, in other words, I can't . . . if I don't exude some enthusiasm, some interest in selling it, I can't get those guys worked up very much. So all these, I think, play a part.

KLEE: Let me follow up on that with . . . ask you . . . you're working different places throughout the country

CAGE: Yeah.

KLEE: . . . in the year, an auctioneer does . . .

CAGE: Yeah.

KLEE: . . . what about benefits and retirement and all those kind of things? Is that left up to the auctioneers?

CAGE: Entirely.

KLEE: To take care of that.

CAGE: Entirely. And a lot of guys, even though they're making a pretty good stick during their lifetime, they don't . . . they live it up pretty much and they don't . . . cause they don't have any kind of retirement unless they set it up themselves. No insurance, no nothing. And that . . . that's on the other . . .

KLEE: Self-employed?

CAGE: Self-employed. We're like . . . you know, our own agents. And I'll make a contract here for this year and make one again . . . one for next year, and probably will continue staying here, as long as we . . . satisfy each other. But if I chose . . . and I did choose for five years to leave here and go to . . . because for . . . for lots of different reasons, mainly I'd just been here a long time and I wanted to play some indoor tennis and stuff.

KLEE: The . . . you . . . you have to make contacts then with each market you're gonna work on?

CAGE: Yeah. One way or another. And generally if you go to a market this year and you suit them, then you'll . . . you'll . . . you'll work it out for another year. Or sometimes more than another year.

KLEE: So . . . so there's a hierarchy of . . . of auctioneers, and there's a hierarchy of markets too?

CAGE: Um, hmm.

KLEE: Depending on how much they sell obviously; that relates to income.

CAGE: Yeah.

KLEE: So an auctioneer works his way up to better markets?

CAGE: And better and bigger . . . bigger sales.

KLEE: Bigger sales.

CAGE: I mean, it's hard for a young auctioneer, an inexperienced auctioneer, to go and . . . to sell a full sale, which may be four hours long because he can't sustain it. You know, you really can't sustain it. Like an opera singer, you can't . . . get up there and sing for two or three hours the first year . . . the first two or three times, so it's . . . again, it's an experiential thing. I'm still learning.

KLEE: Maysville is one of the desirable markets, then?

CAGE: So far as I'm concerned. It's . . . you know, 's bigger. But I find this a very efficient market and I find . . . you don't have to stay here as long, say, to make as much money. You know, goes on longer. So you're spending . . . you know, it's expensive living. And I have other things I wanna do because I go to on this tobacco market too, and that starts in about a month or so. That's starts March the eighteenth. So it just suits me better. And I know the people. They're nice people here.

KLEE: Let me trace your . . . your year, then, your year's activities. Just to give an idea of what kinds of things auctioneers have to do. Now you're on this market now, and this started before Thanksgiving and runs down this time through the first of February. Then where . . . where do you go?

CAGE: I stop . . . I stop here next week. Next Thursday. And then I'm finished 'til March the eighteenth. I'm up there about eight weeks.

KLEE: That's in ?

CAGE: Uh-huh. Then I'm finished again until sometime in July, at which time I go to . And I'll work from that time, from right on through , right on up to . . . 'til this thing. Except maybe for . . . sometimes in , we'll stop maybe a week or two before Thanksgiving. This market'll generally open Thanksgiving week. So . . .

KLEE: So the Georgia and Virginia markets take you through . . . from July all the way . . .

CAGE: Right on through November, on into February. Pretty much. But I'll have break, I'll have a nice break at Christmas, and I'll have a break between and . I'll have a pretty good little break there.

KLEE: But you're . . . you're fully employed, then, as an auctioneer? You . . .

CAGE: You can't work no more than I do. I used to . . . for six years, I went to . . .

KLEE: Gee.

CAGE: . . . and was selling over there, but it's one that . . . it's a nice job in that I only work, you know, to about 2:00 or 2:30 most of the time, four days a week. And I do . . . I do other things. A lot . . .

KLEE: You still have those . . . those athletic pursuits?

CAGE: Athletic and artistic and things that I can . . . can do because this business supports me in that style of life that I enjoy. It's been very good to me that way. And I do other things very seriously. I do other things as seriously as I do auctioneering. However, auctioneering is my bread and butter. But I'm into art, I'm very deeply into art. I've got a degree in art.

KLEE: I see.

CAGE: And I'm . . . I'm a tennis pro. I'm on the U.S.P.T.A. [United States Professional Tennis Association] and I teach some. Play . . . play, you know, reasonable in some national tournaments. In the senior division. So I have . . . I have a full plate all the time. And it is . . . I do as much relaxing out here as . . . I just hang out, out here. You know, particularly this year. Sell tobacco.

KLEE: Because of the busy-ness of the . . . does this allow for a personal life too much or . . . does it cause a little family . . .

CAGE: It is not the best . . . it is not the best thing for married life. I've got four kids by . . . I've been married twice . . . by my first wife, who was incidentally a tennis pro too. From . And you're away a lot. And that . . . a weekend husband is not the greatest husband in the world, particularly when you got . . . you know, young children. And . . . and I really . . . I don't think I was mature enough to know what to do cause I have a lot of regrets at this point about the time I didn't spend with my kids. You know, now that they're grown, it's . . . the only thing you can do is say, well, didn't do so hot that . . . that time; maybe I'll do a little bit better now.

KLEE: Well that's a . . . the . . . the nomadic life is an interesting part of this tobacco business with the markets. And, you know, the auctioneers and others are involved in that traveling around. Let me ask you about these different kinds of markets and the tobacco you worked with, and give me your feelings about, you know, how you enjoyed . . . the differences in the auction process in those . . . in those different markets. For example, here we're dealing with air-cured burley tobacco.

CAGE: Right. And then . . . in , we're dealing with a type tobacco which is not so much for filler of a cigarette but for the . . . it's the fuse of the cigarette, kinda. Makes it burn slowly. However, there is a Swiss company which makes a cigarette entirely of tobacco. Very mild kind of smoke. And it's a sort of the punk of the cigarettes. So . . . and they don't . . .

KLEE: Now, is it . . . is this more difficult . . .

CAGE: To sell?

KLEE: Uh-huh.

CAGE: Well it . . . no it isn't really more difficult to sell, but up there, they've . . . they don't have any support system. It's . . . it's sold strictly on supply and demand. And fortunately they got the supply and demand pretty much in order. So other than about two or three years ago, we've had a pretty stable market. Everything is sold [inaudible]. So you don't drop back and get stabil-, stabilization. It's the only market that's going like that now, that I know about in this country.

KLEE: What about the Georgia and Virginia tobacco?

CAGE: That . . . that is . . . no, that's the Old Gold light tobacco. Golden leaf you hear about, and the flue-cured. That . . . is probably . . . that probably makes up two-thirds of a cigarette.

KLEE: And it comes to the market in . . . in stages more or less. You get all similar types . . .

CAGE: Yeah. You get the lower part of the plant, and then . . . and then the middle and then the tips. How . . . as it ripens.

KLEE: Has that changed the auctioneer's strategy?

CAGE: No. No, because they . . . they don't grade it quite as well as they used to. Now, of course, they want to get all their lugs together and the leaf, you know, and cutters and all that sort of stuff. They should. They try to. But it isn't . . . you see, they don't do it by hands anymore, just like they don't here. You don't see it tied anymore down there. So it's . . . but it hasn't really changed anything about this system. After all, the system's the same.

KLEE: You mentioned the . . . the trip you took overseas to .

CAGE: Uh-huh.

KLEE: That attracted you just because of the . . .

CAGE: The money?

KLEE: . . . the adventure of it? And the money?

CAGE: The money and the adventure. And . . . and the . . . I wanted to know about it. And it's the largest tobacco market in the world. Oh yeah, it's in now. It's called then. And it was called , but now . . . now it's called . And I only left when they changed the system. The government changed. And the reason I did at the time, the auction system became frustrated and . . . they didn't know how they were gonna handle it. However, they do have their own system over there and they're training their own auctioneers now.

KLEE: Is that right?

CAGE: Uh-huh. Flue-cured.

KLEE: How about the quality of that tobacco?

CAGE: Quite good.

KLEE: It was pretty good?

CAGE: Yes, quite good. It didn't have the flavor that our tobacco does here in the States. It . . . really, this is the best . . . we got the best flue-cured, I believe, in the world, and the best burley. They have . . . so far, they haven't found any burley that compares to this and burley.

KLEE: So that's been the salvation of our markets?

CAGE: Yeah, it's good, you know, and they . . . even at the . . . even if it's close, they'd much rather have American tobacco. They'd rather pay more and get American tobacco. However, it has gotten to where the import tobacco is so much more reasonable. That's what created our problem. So it's some place or other, they got to get the supply and demand. They've got to get it . . . they've got to get the prices comparable to offshore tobacco prices. If . . . if they wanna keep a good market. They must. There's no . . . no question about it. It's like everything else, like the cars and all this stuff that has come in from other places. You've got to get it there. And I think they're doing that now. Looks like they're gonna get some that's pretty stable for the next three years.

KLEE: Let me [inaudible] a little bit backwards with you over this thirty years that you've been auctioneering tobacco. Are there any . . . as I've done historical work on this, I've . . . I've read of accounts where farmers would close a warehouse for example because it didn't bring a price they . . . they wanted. Different kinds of things that impacted on the tobacco business. Are there any incidents that you recall specifically like that?

CAGE: I was in not too many years ago when . . . when they stopped the sale. The . . . the warehousemen stopped the sale because the farmers were rejecting the prices. They were expecting more for their lugs and they said, well, sorry. You know, it was done in a very nice way. And . . . and I've seen, you know, twenty-five years ago, incidents in Maryland where other farmers, you know, say . . . you know, don't touch that tobacco. They didn't like the prices. Don't put your hands on that tobacco. Walk on by. And, you know, and threats and stuff like that. But it's been a very, very little of that. You know, very little. Course there've been disappointments. And you'll hear a farmer say there's no way we can make it again another year, and yet you see him again the next year. And they . . . they are . . . it is tough. However, on the other side of the coin, it's . . . a farmer is about the last . . . the freest man left. You know, a rancher, he does to some extent call his own shots. You know. So that's the price he has to pay for that kind of freedom, I believe. Unfortunately, the companies are making an awful lot of money on cigarettes. And I think it's unfortunate that they aren't passing . . . instead of to the stockholders, give it . . . give the farmers a break.

KLEE: Sure.

CAGE: Really, you know, give them break. You got about five thousand pounds is . . . is the average allotment in this . . . in this area.

KLEE: Yes, that's true. And it wouldn't be that much money. You're not talking about . . .

CAGE: No, you're not.

KLEE: . . . a little bit of [inaudible] . . .

CAGE: Give them . . . give them a chance. Give them a break, you know, for a change.

KLEE: Over that thirty years, have you . . . have you noticed different changes in quality of tobacco? Has tobacco changed much?

CAGE: No. This . . . when they start buying it in fewer grades, I think the quality was probably . . . I think the grading was better. That's what they're paying for, is the grading. And I think it was a little better then, maybe than it is now.

KLEE: When . . . as an auctioneer, did you . . . you'd gone from mostly hand-tied to now baled tobacco . . .

CAGE: Yeah.

KLEE: . . . did that make a difference to an auctioneer?

CAGE: Not that much. You know . . . not that much, really. Because we're working . . . we may have to do a little bit more talking now to get the same amount of money, sell more bales. But it hasn't changed . . . hasn't . . . no. Has not.

KLEE: Let me run through a few of the . . . talk about how an auctioneer sets up. Now you're . . . you're trying to please your employers, which are the warehousemen . . .

CAGE: Sure.

KLEE: So at . . . at a sale, there is a time to start the sale and the warehouseman . . . what's the relationship on that floor between the warehouseman and the auctioneer? He'll often start a sale.

CAGE: Well, we've been at it so long, that . . . you know, the warehouseman, what he does, he is trying to . . . he's selling a farmer's tobacco on a commission basis.

KLEE: Yes sir.

CAGE: And what he's trying to do naturally is get the highest prices he can for the farmer. And what he does, he assesses what this tobacco is worth. He'll look at it and say this tobacco is worth $1.63 for Southwestern Tobacco Company. That's what goes through his head. So he'll start it . . . he may start that out, say, at $1.65, and then drop on down, hoping to get three. He'll look at another pile, and he'll say, now this will make the Reynolds grade and he'll start at fifty-nine and we probably . . . we might sell it at fifty-nine, we might sell at fifty-seven. Might sell it at fifty-five. But that's what he's doing. And we immediately, what I'm trying to do is take as much load off of him as I can. I mean, the more I can do his job for him, even, and just sell it, the better . . . you know, the more valuable I am to him. So you don't . . . so we . . . you don't necessarily have to have the greatest start . . . a good start is very, very important to a sale. But if you've got an experienced auctioneer, if the starter misses the assessment, and the auctioneer has looked at so much tobacco, he can reassess it. You know, if he starts it too low, he can jump it himself. If he starts it at forty-five, he'll jump it to fifty-five himself, trying to get a bid. Or if he starts it too high, he'll jump it from $1.60 to . . . drop it to $1.45. This sort of stuff you don't learn in a week or a year.

KLEE: No, that's the experience. Now you're doing the same thing in . . .

CAGE: Wherever I go. It's . . . where . . . on any market, it's basically the same thing.

KLEE: Well, when . . . the same kind of things are going through your mind, though, when you look. You're thinking now this tobacco's good for this price . . .

CAGE: Yeah, yeah. I . . . my computer's working too.

KLEE: I see.

CAGE: At the same time. But the more . . . the more experienced he is, the better he is, the better sale we can have.

KLEE: And you know as you walk down a . . . a line of tobacco, you have a pretty good idea of what company's gonna . . . which company's gonna bid for this particular kind of tobacco?

CAGE: Yeah. Well a lot of times, there'll be three different companies interested in the same [inaudible]. Or even four. So . . . and in that case, it's a matter of my keeping them in rotation, and trying to make sure they each get a square deal.

KLEE: Okay, now explain that for people that . . . are listening.

CAGE: Well, okay. What you're doing . . . if everybody came out there, with exactly the same money . . . say all . . . which has happened, back in the 60's. I remember everything was bringing exactly the same, I don't care what it was. We had it jammed up to $1.66. Well, theoretically, an auctioneer could start going . . . just go around and just keep going around. Just taking the buyers in rotation. However, that is a very unusual year. And I think, as well as I remember now, because of past performance of different companies, I think the auctioneers and the warehousemen pretty much honored . . . say, if Reynolds had been buying thirty percent on the previous year before that, and Southwestern was buying, say, forty, we pretty much worked it out the same because they've been pretty supportive of the market.

KLEE: Did you have to keep that in mind all the time?

CAGE: Yeah. Pretty much. You . . . you do. And that . . . that gets a little bit tricky at times. However on a . . . on an ordinary sale, you . . . I, as auctioneer, think the best way to do it is to tie the good to the bad. If a guy is carrying me on the lower end of the crop, and just about anything that stays on the floor and stays on the basket, if he's carrying me there, I'm gonna make sure he gets that . . . that same percentage of the tops as much as I can. If there's any way possible, I'm gonna give him . . . deal him more of the top because he's supporting the farmer better and the market. But it's just the only way I know to do it. I cannot just let him get creamed when we come to the top tobacco, because everybody's waiting for that. Cause it's got such good yield, it suits them, they can sell it overseas or whatever. So I've got to make sure that this man who's taken me on the low end, I'm gonna tie the good to the bad and make sure that he comes in first on the tops and then goes somewhere else and then come back to him again, you know. And they'll . . . they'll bitch. You know, some of the others will bitch, you know. "Well, I was bidding on it too." Well, but you haven't been bidding on the others. So they know what I'm doing. And as an auctioneer, about really all we got is our ability to perform and our integrity. And . . .

KLEE: So this is another part of your computer that has to work. You have to keep an eye on who's been bidding on everything . . .

CAGE: Yeah.

KLEE: . . . and about how much they've bought in the past . . .

CAGE: Yeah.

KLEE: . . . and if we have three bids at the same bid, you decide . . .

CAGE: Yeah.

KLEE: . . . which one it goes to?

CAGE: Right. I'll . . . I'll go . . . if I have three of the same guys bidding on it after . . . at a particular time, I will consider if it's . . . particularly what part of the sale it is. If it's on, say, the fifth row, I will know by that time, how much . . . so many . . . who has bought what. Then I would knock it out first . . . I'll give the first one to the man who's bought the most; second to the man who's bought the second most, and third to the man who's bough the third most. And everybody else may be bidding. You know. And because I haven't been supported and so . . . and I'm getting this same thing . . . or if I'm only getting the same thing offered from the rest of the buyers that these guys offer, but however they're not participating in the other end of the market.

KLEE: So you . . . you have the interest of the farmer, trying to get the poor tobacco sold too?

CAGE: Very much so. Cause there's so much of it.

KLEE: It's . . . [inaudible]

CAGE: It ain't all good.

KLEE: [chuckle] That's true.

CAGE: You see. And that's what gets the average up.

[End Tape #1, Side #1]

[Begin Tape #1, Side #2]

KLEE: This is side two of a tape with Mr. Bob Cage by John Klee for the Kentucky Oral History Commission. We were talking about what is actually happening on a sale and how you decide which . . . which buyer gets . . . gets a pile of tobacco based on if they're bidding the same price. The . . . we . . . I've mentioned the relationship you had with . . . with the warehousemen. What kind of relationship do you have to have with the buyers?

CAGE: Good. First of all, you don't have to have a good buddy-buddy type of relationship. And the fact . . . as a matter of fact, I'm not that fond of . . . for some people. However, I remain remote to that situation in that I just find that I . . . I have a better working relationship if my social life is . . . is divorced from them, you know. I seem to because I . . . what happened the night before, I don't want it to be involved in the next day or, you know, and I don't want somebody talking to me, conning me into getting more tobacco for instance, which can happen. You know, when they're on a tight situation. They got their bosses in, you know. I don't want that to happen to me. I don't want that pressure. I don't want that hassle. And another thing, I don't . . . I just want them to be able to say, well Bob is gonna give me a square deal. I don't care what happens. They know I'm gonna get a square deal when they walk in there. That's the best thing I can have going for me. And . . . and I don't have to . . . I don't even know all the buyers names, a lot of them. You know, unless I work with them on two or three markets. I don't know their names, but I know their stalls. I know what slot they fit in, in line, see. When one gets out of line, another comes in. I know that's Reynolds' place. I know this is Southwestern's place. I know this is Export American. So, I mean, I know a buyer from another market or a circuit man may come in, have a relief buyer in, and he just slips in there, so I immediately take him as the American bidder. I mean, I'd have seen him before, you see. But it's very good . . . it's always good to have a good, warm, amenable [amenable? amiable?] relationship with your buyers. And . . . and . . .

KLEE: You . . . you mentioned the placement of the buyers. That's based on . . . on the amount of tobacco they buy?

CAGE: Pretty . . .

KLEE: . . . from year to year?

CAGE: . . . yeah . . .

KLEE: [inaudible] preference, I suppose?

CAGE: Yes. They get their choice sort of places. I think a choice placeĀ . . . probably . . . would be . . . some buyers like it in the back. Some like it in . . . because they can see the tobacco coming further ahead you see. Others like it sort of in front of them. And . . . but generally, I think probably right across from the auctioneer would . . . may be about the best place. And you're still, you know, you . . . as far as . . . between the tobacco and where you are is about the distance you're looking at. You know, I would say it's five or six feet.

KLEE: Who decides, who actually decides that pecking order? Is that the sales supervisor or the warehouseman . . .

CAGE: I think it's something worked out with the Tobacco Board of Trade and the sales supervisor, and the companies. You know, they work it out from a percentage point of view. If . . .

KLEE: Now that doesn't change too much over the years?

CAGE: Not much. Sometimes it does. A company may . . . may lose some business, may not be selling as many cigarettes, and not buying as much. Like Liggett & Myers used to be a big factor on this market. They're not even on the market, and haven't been on here for a number of years. See, and they used to be . . . followed behind the auctioneer. Used to carry a big stick. See they're . . . they're gone. Some of the other companies are no longer here. You know.

KLEE: So you have to re-learn that a little bit each year?

CAGE: Well, it doesn't take long. You just put it in computer.

KLEE: I see. How do . . . how . . . how do the buyers react to an auctioneer? Now you're . . . you . . . you have to look at the tobacco, and you're . . . the warehouseman's maybe pulling you along or . . . or trying to start the sale. How do you recognize bids? Do they . . .

CAGE: Well, most of them . . . the best way for a tobacco buyer to bid is with their hand. If you . . . if they wanna be at fifty-seven, get two fingers up. You know. And that . . . that's for sure what they got. You know, if we're crying fifty-five, and [inaudible] bid fifty-seven, get up . . . one bids fifty-six, he gets up one. And if we're crying fifty-five and he turns down a fist, that means he's trying to bid fifty. If he turns it up, that means he's bidding sixty. You see? If I'm crying . . . if I'm crying fifty-five, he's throwing up three fingers, he's on me fifty-eight. If I'm crying sixty, he holds up three, he's on me sixty-three. So they're in the hole. They got that hole blocked and they know it. Then that's the best way. However, if you've got . . . you've got some buyers who bid a lot by just looking at you. But when the tobacco . . . when the bidding is spirited, they got their fingers out. Throw . . . throw their fingers out. Because then there's no question. Got it up in your face, I got sixty-three don't you see, that's three, that isn't two, that isn't one. You know I can't put them on a different hole. I can't put him in a hole he doesn't wanna be in at that point. I gotta tell him. I says, three is against you, give me four. You know, because somebody may have beat him in, but he doesn't know that. Somebody's gone and made . . . [inaudible] thrown it in ahead of him. Back here. And it's that way in looking at the tobacco. They're looking at the tobacco; when they look up, they're bidding. Long as they'll look at you, they're bidding. They don't have to wink, they don't have to do anything, but just look at me, and they're bidding. And . . . and I will take him as long as I got another bid.

KLEE: And you're talking about eight, nine, ten, eleven . . .

CAGE: Sometimes thirteen or fourteen.

KLEE: How does that . . . how does that . . .

CAGE: Well, it's a bunch of it. It's a bunch of it. I'll tell you right now, it's all . . . you got hands and things flying all over the place sometimes.

KLEE: You're moving fast.

CAGE: Move just as fast as you can go. 'Least I do.

KLEE: Does your . . . there's a purpose to it, moving fast?

CAGE: It's . . . it's . . . lots of reasons I think. I think . . . you know I could . . . I'm a pretty fast auctioneer. And the reason I am is because I think it's the best way to sell tobacco. You can't go lickety-split with every set because you don't have . . . you don't have anybody on there who can bid that fast sometimes. On other sets, you got fast bidders and guys that think fast, and you can flat fly. In some, you can't . . . to get the best sale, you gotta slow it down and plow. And work a lot harder to get the same amount of money. It depends a lot on this set of buyers. But . . . generally the more enthusiasm and the faster I can sell it, it's less time for them to find something wrong with it. It's less time for them to get disgruntled. If a mistake is made, you can . . . can cover it up in a very few minutes. If a guy gets cut out of this crop, if you keep moving, it's just a matter of time before you can get him . . . throw him back into that one to get his percentage right. And there's a lot can go on. But if you're driving, they start . . . it's easier for them, the buyers, I think, to start dividing tobacco up, you know. They got time to sort of . . . well . . .

KLEE: [inaudible]

CAGE: . . . yeah, you know, without saying anything, you start . . . they . . . 'stead of fifty-five, the first thing, you know, well you've dropped to fifty, and then he'll let one. The other guy'll only bid fifty, and then he'll be at fifty again. Well, if . . . if I can keep that sale zipped up and soon as that guy comes in and say fifty-one or fifty-two, I'll knock it. Then the next time, the other man's got to come in. And I'm not gonna wait on him and say it's against you. You know, break it up or any of that sort of mess.

KLEE: So it forces them back to [inaudible] bid.

CAGE: That . . . that's what I try to do. And then nobody's ever told me that. But this has evolved and, you know, it must've worked because I won that championship, you know, a couple years ago.

KLEE: As you go down the line of tobacco, and you've got those different people, the tobacco . . . there's . . . there's a big variety of tobacco, but eventually you get around to the same type.

CAGE: Right.

KLEE: So most everybody has the tobacco that they need or want or . . .

CAGE: Yeah. And you'll . . . like I said earlier, that . . . that the good tobacco is always . . . good, ripe tobacco is always in demand. It just is. Because the yield is better. There's more flavor and more yield. It's just better value for them. Because if it's green, you know, they . . . and if it's dirty, if there's more processing, more labor involved, the yield still isn't as good . . . they have to put it into different types of products.

KLEE: Now does . . . an auctioneer auctions . . . I . . . I think I know the answer to this question, but I'll ask it anyway. Auctioneers don't have to study . . . they don't go down on the market, on the floor . . .


KLEE: . . . before the . . . and they usually don't go back and check and see . . .

CAGE: I don't. As soon as that sale's over, I am gone. I don't wanna hear any bitches. If they got them, I don't wanna hear them cause I've done all I could. And . . . and I don't wanna hear from the buyers. I don't want somebody to say, hey, come here and see if we can't get a raise or this sort of thing. I . . . I think . . . I think it promotes that sort of thing. I don't believe in it.

KLEE: Sure.

CAGE: And I don't get . . . I don't get there as early as some do. I think it would probably help if I got there, maybe talked more to the farmers or to the buyers, but I just don't . . .

KLEE: Allow them to . . .

CAGE: Yeah, I don't . . . it . . . it isn't my style. You know, my thing is trying to get to dance those guys down that row as fast as I can, as well as I can, and get on to the next sale.

KLEE: Most of . . . most of the complaints you might hear would come from buyers because . . .

CAGE: Yeah.

KLEE: . . . because they don't think you're getting . . . giving . . .

CAGE: That's it.

KLEE: . . . knocking off [inaudible].

CAGE: That's it. And most of the time, you can explain to them why. They . . . you know, they will wonder why they didn't get dealt into this crop. But they forget that another buyer had probably taken me through the last three crops, where he didn't make a bid. You know.

KLEE: Right.

CAGE: And they . . . regardless of what. Most of them are not unreasonable, however. Yeah, the only time it gets tight is when they're . . . when their circuit men are coming in, and tobacco is jammed up close to the top, and then they get nervous because they want to make sure they get the right grade and the right amount while they got the circuit over here [inaudible]. And that's when it gets shaking. All that stuff filters right into the auctioneer. You know, you . . . you can feel it. You know. And you try it. I do. I try, when they have a boss man in, or somebody that's very important, I really do all I can to make sure that they get a good break. As well as I can, at that particular time. I just . . . I would want somebody to do that to me. And every buyer know it. It doesn't mean that they're gonna cut back. I'm just gonna make sure he's got . . . gets whatever he can while they're in there.

KLEE: Cause tomorrow it might be the next buyer's . . .

CAGE: Exactly. Exactly. And maybe I'm telling stories out of school, but you know, I don't . . . I don't find anything wrong with it.

KLEE: Do you . . . do you ever get . . . farmers are often standing a row behind or watching as the crop goes by. Do you ever get very many comments from farmers?

CAGE: No. Very little. Farmers . . . you know, I'm one myself. I've got a couple of tobacco farms. They . . . it's . . . it's human nature to bitch a lot of times, it seems to me. A lot of people, they're gonna bitch. You know, it's fashionable almost. You know, they'll have a loaf of bread under each arm and butter running out, but they're still bitching. You know. And . . .

KLEE: Human condition.

CAGE: Yeah. Or whatever it brings, I thought I . . . I thought I'd get more.

KLEE: Sure.

CAGE: You know. Sort of thing, and so I don't [inaudible] [chuckle], I don't really pay a lot of attention to it. I'm selling . . . it's all I can do . . . it's all I want to do, is to keep my alertness and focus. That makes a difference in anything you do in any case, is the focus you put on it.

KLEE: Did . . . we have the advent of women buyers the last few years. Did . . .

CAGE: Uh-huh.

KLEE: . . . was that a . . . was that a shock to an auctioneer, or . . .

CAGE: It was . . . it was a novelty at first. And . . . but they've done real well. Some of them, I think, have done better than the men.

KLEE: Well that's kind of what I wanted, your reaction.

CAGE: Yeah, some of them have, you know, and . . . I . . .

KLEE: They've earned their spot, too, then?

CAGE: Yeah. And it . . . it . . . it doesn't hurt . . . it . . . it . . . I think it's helped. And they have a few women ticket markers. I don't think they have any women auctioneers.

KLEE: That's what I was gonna ask.

CAGE: Not tobacco. It's pretty intense. And I'm not saying a woman couldn't do it. I'm sure they . . . that one could. But so far they . . . they haven't been into that.

KLEE: You mentioned, and I was . . . wanting to talk about this, the . . . the competitions for auctioneers added, I guess, a little bit of [inaudible] . . .

CAGE: It was interesting.

KLEE: . . . for what . . . what . . .

CAGE: Yeah, this . . .

KLEE: . . . this hasn't been going on for too many years.

CAGE: This . . . it's been five years. This past year, was five years.

KLEE: And this is in ?

CAGE: on October . . . this year, it'll be on October the eleventh. I believe last year it was on October the eleventh. And it's . . . it's been a thing that brought right much interest to the tobacco business in general, the whole industry. And it's been a very festive occasion. About thirty-five or forty thousand people would show up, like this past year, they had Ronnie Milsap, who's a very fine popular singer with a lot of number one hits. And they had Ray Charles. And they had the World Championship Tobacco Auctioneer, which I was fortunate to win in `84.

KLEE: Yes sir. Yeah, I knew that you had success

CAGE: Yeah, and . . . but I had tried it three years before and hadn't. And I . . . I'm not so sure that I didn't . . . don't know as I didn't, that I performed any better than I did before. It's just . . . you got . . . you got different judges and different judges see things differently. And it . . . all . . . one is as competent as the other. But I was real pleased to win it. There was about seventy-five of us, and they break that down into ten, and of those ten, they take the top three. There's a ten thousand dollar prize now.

KLEE: Oh, I didn't . . .

CAGE: Yeah. And . . . and . . . and a . . . five thousand dollar beautiful ring and . . . and a chance to take trips on a lot of different places, with whomever you wanna take and I had . . . had the good luck to go to the Kentucky Derby for three days, and New Orleans and Boston and all kinds of places.

KLEE: So besides the recognition, which is fantastic . . .

CAGE: Yeah, it's . . . we . . . we're sort of ambassadors for the industry.

KLEE: For the tobacco industry.

CAGE: And we'll do talks and . . . you know, like to the F.F.A. [Future Farmers of America] and to festivals and just . . . just whatever.

KLEE: Just the other day, you were talking to a school group . . .

CAGE: Um, hmm.

KLEE: . . . and I . . .

CAGE: I been . . . I talked to two school groups this . . . as soon as I got back. And [chuckle] I . . . went to a Parent-Teachers Association and about three hundred kids there. I never saw . . . were you there?

KLEE: No, I . . . I saw . . . I heard about the report. They . . . one of the . . . one of my students had a child there.

CAGE: Oh yeah?

KLEE: Said I went to the PTA meeting and I was glad I went because . . .

CAGE: Yeah, well I'm glad to . . .

KLEE: . . . the auctioneer was there.

CAGE: I didn't . . . I didn't know what to do, you know. But it's . . . it's stuff like that. I never really know what to do 'til I get there, and sort of feel out the crowd and see what they want.

KLEE: Right. Who's there. Well, that's the next thing I kind of wanna talk about, is about the actual chant, your chant as opposed to other chants.

CAGE: Yeah, they . . . well, what they judge this contest on would be chant. Speed, execution of the sale. Settling disputes.

KLEE: I see, uh-huh.

CAGE: You know, and those things. And you . . . you have to do all these things in a matter of about two or three minutes because you're on stage in . . . in front of these judges. And a chant is important. It's very important because they're all different types. And if one has everything that the other has, plus a beautiful voice, then he has something special. You know.

KLEE: I know it's difficult in this kind of environment, you know, we're just talking with each other here, and it's . . . it's easier when you're in a tobacco . . .

CAGE: Oh yeah, well it's totally different because it's like turning your car on here and not going anywhere.

KLEE: [chuckle] Yeah.

CAGE: Just sit there and racing the engine. It sounds ridiculous, and it . . . it'll wear you out, you know. You gotta have some going with you.

KLEE: Well I . . . I have already taped some . . . some auctions, and I plan on doing some more, but I wanted you give me just a little taste of . . . for example how your chant differs from other . . . other chants.

CAGE: Well, my . . . I don't . . . I have a chant that is easy to change. I don't have much "fifty-five dollars and . . . ", and stuff. [does chant] you know, fast like that. Mine's fast and fairly choppy. But other guys will have . . . have a slower sort of rhythm and it suits that personality better, you know. There're guys who will say, you know, [does long chant] like that. Sixty-seven dollar bid. And another will do . . .

KLEE: Now, give me a little bit of your chant to kind of compare that.

CAGE: Well, I . . . you know, it's real difficult. Because I chant different all the time.

KLEE: Oh, I see.

CAGE: You know, it depends on who . . . the buyers, you know. It . . . you can . . . [does chant] like that. You know. And mine is probably revved up a little bit more.

KLEE: I see. [inaudible], huh?

CAGE: Yeah. And another guy may have . . . there's one guy who says . . . he . . . [does two chants] Like that, you know. That's the way he'll sound. So they all have different type of rhythm. That they know . . . some of them . . . be very methodical and even. [does chant] like that, you know. [chuckles] And it's . . . it's just whatever suits one. There's no way to do . . .

KLEE: Are there . . . are there regional variations?


KLEE: Just . . .

CAGE: No, not really. This . . . I don't know, maybe . . . I don't know why, but the first four of us who won the world championship were from . And up around . . . in the Danville/South Boston/Clarksville/Kimbridge area. You know, there. And maybe it's because . . . I don't know, but I've often wondered. It might be because tobacco was a little harder to sell then, to start with. I mean I . . . I . . . I think our training was probably tougher. Tougher basic training because you had to be able to go both ways. In , you're selling this flue-cured that's . . . comes off of all different kinds of land. You know, and it's . . . you have to do a lot of jockeying around to be able to run this scale backwards and forwards. You know, so that might have had something to do with it, the first four. I don't know.

KLEE: Just a lot . . . the quality of tobacco because of the different land . . .

CAGE: Yeah, it . . . and you worked harder to sell. So you . . . if you have harder training, you know . . . a . . . a guy goes in the Marines who's . . . who's had . . . has to take harder and tougher training is . . . is . . . when he gets into combat is in better shape than, say, a sailor who . . . who is aboard ship and . . . you know, different things.

KLEE: Do you . . . the sales that . . . earlier this year, for example, in Maysville, you sold in the morning and afternoon, and went from one place to another. You pretty well worn out after a day, as far as . . . is it a . . .

CAGE: Depends on a lot. It depends on . . . like . . . what a . . . what an auctioneer does, and I like to do, is stop. He would like to sell one pile from here to . . . one row from here to Ripley.

KLEE: Then be done.

CAGE: Not . . . not even turn corners. You know, that's what I like. I just . . . I wish they had one . . .

KLEE: Big long one?

CAGE: Yeah, like a railroad track. And get somebody . . . when you finished that would drive you back or something. [chuckles] It's the turning around and the stopping that gets you. You know, I have to warm up my engine, get it going. I . . . when they stop, I gotta crank back up and get my rhythm going again and all that. You know, just . . . you don't just get in your car here and start and go to sixty mile an hour.

KLEE: That's right.

CAGE: And that's almost what you have to do if you're selling tobacco. And that sort of gets to you a little bit. Another thing, you'll have sets of buyers who . . . who are not as competent. You . . . you . . .

KLEE: You work with different sets of buyers . . .

CAGE: Yeah.

KLEE: . . . each day?

CAGE: Yeah.

KLEE: Each day.

CAGE: I'll have to . . . we'll have three sets of buyers here, and I . . . every . . . every fourth . . . let's see, I worked with one set one day, and a second, then a third, then one again . . . two, and three. But . . .

KLEE: Now we're down to two sets now.

CAGE: Yeah. So . . . so we just switch. One day I had one, Charlie Fowlkes has the other one the next day.

KLEE: Does . . . course you can't make a generalization I don't guess about do they . . . do they let their youngest buyers go? They let the oldest one? Is it easier now with just the two sets?

CAGE: Not . . . not necessarily.

KLEE: Yeah, cause you don't . . .


KLEE: . . . [inaudible].

CAGE: No, not necessarily. It's . . . one set will work you more than others. You know, and sometimes this year . . . like I sold fifteen hundred piles yes- . . . when? Yesterday. Fifteen hundred. That's a lot. You're set up on twelve sixty. My set had fifteen hundred and something. The other side only had eight. Just the way the breaks went. But that was a pretty good . . . healthy day's work. And so I was a little tired, but . . . and I didn't have the swiftest set of buyers in the world. Some buyers like to go. You know, just . . . they can . . . you can turn your heat on and they can take it and go. Others, you do . . . you just don't get as good sale if you go that fast. You have to do more talking to get the same amount of money.

KLEE: Takes a lot of psychic energy, I guess.

CAGE: It does. Yeah.

KLEE: Thinking . . . remembering who's gonna get what now. Have I got the same bid and . . .

CAGE: Yeah, but after awhile, it gets . . . a lot of it's reflexes.

KLEE: Yeah, just do it instinctively.

CAGE: Um, hmm.

KLEE: As far as the tobacco business, you've been involved now for many years and so forth. How . . . are some of the things that have been happening nationally, locally, and so forth . . . how are they impacting or . . . are you ever called upon to . . . you know, as you said, you're . . . you're a representative of tobacco to a certain extent, having won the national championship . . .

CAGE: But you know it hasn't . . . it's funny. I went . . . been to all these different places and nobody's putting me on the spot about it. I was on the spot here one time in this . . . this little town by . . . Episcopal minister. Asked me how I could justify selling tobacco and stuff like that. [inaudible] made me mad. And . . . and I think I answered him in such a way without putting him down, that he wished he hadn't asked me. You know?

KLEE: Right.

CAGE: But that . . . that . . . [inaudible] has said, how can you justify this. I . . . I tell these people to be proud of their . . . their product. You know? And it's . . . it's unfortunate that this law about fourteen years ago came out that . . . the way I see it, it's unfortunate, in that anything that one should be able to . . . one can manufacture, they should be able to advertise. And the hypocrisy gets me. You know, if you got five hundred thousand beer commercials a year, you know, what happens with alcoholism which is a drug just like nicotine is, and like caffeine is, I why do . . . that's the problem. That's the problem I have with . . . the problem of the government trying to be a nanny to everybody. I just have problems with that.

KLEE: And there's a certain amount of selective attention towards tobacco. If you . . .

CAGE: Yeah.

KLEE: . . . [inaudible] and not caffeine, and not alcohol and some of the other . . .

CAGE: Right. The cholesterol and many other things people do, you see. Obesity . . . obesity kills more people than cigarettes or alcohol or anything else. What, are you gonna stop people from eating butter? For God's sakes. It's ridiculous. And it's . . . some . . . some real sick stuff going on now where people are going around and shooting squirt guns on people in parks, on these no smokeout days and junk like that. That . . . that really isn't characteristic of what . . . what this country's about.

KLEE: Sure. But you haven't really faced too much of that?

CAGE: Hmm-umm. People haven't . . . it's . . . I read about it. I hear about it. Because I want them to ask me. I want them . . . to ask me, you know. Let me tell you how I feel about it.

KLEE: How many more years do you see yourself selling tobacco?

CAGE: As long as I enjoy it. As long as I enjoy it and . . . and mainly that and . . . need to do it. I still have a need to do it because whatever I seem to make, I seem to find a place to . . . to use it pretty fast. I like the energy that money gives you, you know. I wish . . . I wish there was another way, sometimes. But it's that green energy that I need. It allows me . . . just . . . the wherewithal to do other stuff. To do art and to do other things I like to do.

KLEE: You're kind of at the top . . . top of the craft too. You mentioned Charlie Fowlkes and yourself, two experienced auctioneers. You get to stay on the market. You choose your market to a certain extent now because your . . . are there . . . are there occasions where people from . . . from Lexington or other markets . . . do you get contacts? You know, we'd like you to consider selling with us or . . .

CAGE: Yeah, sure. You do. And you know, or . . . or a friend will say, hey, there's an opening over here and I think they'd like you and stuff like that. Yeah, that . . . there is that. But I haven't been one to jump . . . jump around. I like to get someplace and I . . . I've done very little jumping in my life. I was on this market twenty-some years before I went to . And I've been . . . I stayed over there five years and I'm . . . I'm pleased to be back here now.

KLEE: That brings up . . . and I don't . . . really want any details, I'm just kind of interested in the . . . you're hired by the warehousemen and they . . . they sign an individual contract with you. Will . . . will auctioneers then negotiate for more per pound? I mean . . .

CAGE: Yes.

KLEE: . . . it's not a standard thing.

CAGE: Right.

KLEE: You get more because you sell more. It's . . . it's both the . . . the percentage and how much you sell.

CAGE: Um, hmm. Right. In other words, if we want so much of the gross percent, and if I don't feel like . . . that I'm getting enough, I'll ask for a larger percent of the gross. Or . . . or here, I feel like it . . . that we are worth more or they're getting more on another market. Like a friend of mine may be in , I will . . . I will say, you know, we're considered the same type of auctioneers. We worked on the same markets, and oh he's paid such and such. I feel like I deserve as much. And he might do the same, and that might be a lever. Or we are offered more to go to or to someplace else, and we'll come back and say, hey listen, I don't wanna leave here, but I'm offered this over there. I'm offered another so many thousand . . . so many thousand dollars or so many bucks. I'd rather stay here; can you meet that. And then you negotiate. If they can or if they come close, and you still wanna stay . . . but there can be a limit, you see, as to how much they can according to how much tobacco they sell. We know that.

KLEE: I asked you about, you know, about the impact of tobacco business. Have you seen anything with . . . for example, buyers dropping off the market, or any less demand over the last few years?

CAGE: Yeah, of export tobacco. Our export market used to be . . . I guess thirty-five or forty percent, and I think it's 'way back now. I don't know exactly what the figure is. We're losing export business. We used to have Imperial Tobacco Company, which was a very big buyer. English tobacco. I think they're getting most of their tobacco cheaper in now. That's another thing. And general consumption of cigarettes isn't as great as it was. However, they're making much money. They're still makings lots and lots and lots of money. Most of their money is made on tobacco. And R. J. Reynolds pays one million dollars a day in taxes. A day! That blow your mind?

KLEE: That really does. And you could . . . you could tell when you were . . . when you're selling tobacco, usually those export buyers will have an independent buying form, but you would know . . .

CAGE: Well I . . .

KLEE: . . . that it's going overseas?

CAGE: Yeah, well, by the companies who buy it. Because some of the companies don't. You know, they're buying . . . most of their business is export business. They're dealers; they're merchants, you know.

KLEE: Well, I appreciate you talking to me.

CAGE: Yeah, man, I hope you found out something.

KLEE: I sure did.

[End Tape #1, Side #2]

[Begin Tape #2, Side #1]

KLEE: The following is a recording of a tobacco auction on the Maysville Market, February 11, 1986. [pause in tape] [Chant begins - can understand a few numbers indicating prices. There is a slight pause with tape on, then chant begins again as they move on - to another pile? Chant continues. Can distinguish buyer of pile, American Tobacco Co. Some laughter. Heavy equipment noises - forklifts? Shorter pauses as they move on, with sound drowned out by equipment noises. Chant ends but can hear men talking without distinguishing words. There is a pause in tape, then resumes with chant. Tape runs less than ten minutes at auction, most indistinguishable.]

KLEE: The following auction was conducted at the Home Warehouse. The auctioneer was Bob Cage.

[End Tape #2, Side #1]

[End of Interview]