Westward Ho! has gone from the streets of Pendleton to the auction block.
Following decades of entertaining crowds each Friday of Round-Up week, Round-Up and Happy Canyon lent the Westward Ho! name to an auction where bidders could purchase wagons similar to the ones they see in the non-motorized parade.
The Westward Ho! Wagon and Western Memorabilia Auction started its inaugural event at the Pendleton Convention Center and Happy Canyon Arena Friday.
The auction originated from the minds of Randy and Vickie Leonard, a husband-wife pair of teamsters who help lead the Round-Up Wagon Train each year through the Blue Mountains.
Randy, a former Round-Up parades director, said he and Vickie used to attend wagon auctions across the state.
But the number of auctions has been shrinking in recent years, he said, making the couple think it would be a good idea to start a wagon auction in Pendleton.
The Leonards got Happy Canyon and the Round-Up on board, the organizations seeing it as an extension of their commitment to preserving Western heritage.
The result became a two-day auction with 40-50 wagons for sale and hundreds of other pieces of horse-drawn farm equipment, equine gear, and various Western items.
The items sold at the auction were sourced from consigners from across the western United States and included a stagecoach and a chuckwagon. Other big ticket items included a Happy Canyon centennial rifle and a Happy Canyon centennial bronze.
Although the wagons were available for viewing in the Happy Canyon arena, they weren’t going to be auctioned off until Saturday, meaning most of the action on Friday was happening in the Pendleton Convention Center.
After 12 p.m., Kelly Trout broke into the familiar stuttering patter of an auctioneer as staff members from Downs Auction paced around the floor to show off their wares, occasionally punctuating Trout’s salesmanship with a “Yes!” whenever a bidder indicated they were willing to go higher.
The auctioned items ranged from the expected, like spurs, reins, bridles and harnesses, to the bizarre, like a concave rod with a piece of antler attached to it that Downs Auction owner Larry Downs called an “attitude adjuster.”
Tongue planted in cheek, Trout called it a “spousal spur” and told the audience they were unlikely to see anything like it again. It sold for $20.
Shane Laib of Walla Walla came to the Westward Ho! Auction as both a buyer and a seller. From his vendor’s booth, Laib successfully bid for a plaster sculpture of a bull’s head.
Laib plans to mount the bull’s head in the western room at his house, but some of the other items he bought would go right back into his Three Doors Vintage, Laib’s antique business.
A board director for the Walla Walla Fair and Frontier Days, Laib said bidding at auctions took quick wits and mental math because bidders not only had to consider the dollar amount being asked for by the auctioneer, but the 10 percent seller’s premium that would be charged.
But the event was a win-win for Laib, who not only came away with some items but also sold some of his own inventory as well.
Other attendees were more interested in finding fellowship in the community rather than bidding on items.
After carefully inspecting a Studebaker wagon, Gregg Zessin of Milton-Freewater said he doesn’t do much collecting anymore, but he still likes to come to wagon auctions to admire the craftsmanship.
In the era of mass-produced products, Zessin said the Round-Up is a good organization to keep wagon auctions going.
“Thank goodness for the people who keep it up,” he said.
As fellow wagon enthusiasts, Beth Fitch and her husband Alan came out to support the Leonards.
The Fitches have participated in the wagon train for 30 years, and Beth said they don’t have a need for more wagons at their home in Beavercreek, a hamlet of about 4,500 near Oregon City.
The couple did end up with some equine equipment, and they were also happy that there was an auction show in Pendleton.
The Round-Up and Happy Canyon are aiming that this year’s attendees will have something to come back to next year.
Vickie Leonard told the audience before the auction began that they intended to turn the auction into an annual event that happens each April.