The century-old tradition of the auctioneer's chant fell by the wayside this year when burley tobacco auctions adopted a slice of high technology.
After a trial run in the flue-cured tobacco markets of North Carolina this summer, handheld computers, sometimes called PDAs, nudged the auctioneers out of the way Monday at opening day sales in Danville.
The change was immediately evident in the sounds - or lack of them - during the selling process.
In quiet conversations throughout Farmer's Tobacco Warehouse, sellers could be heard saying, "It sure ain't like it use to be," referring to the lack of noise. Farmers still fell in behind the buyers, turning tickets to see prices, but there were no trademark rhythmic chants and the closing yell of "sold" before buyers moved to the next lot.
Dennis Graham, a North Carolina auctioneer for more than 20 years, said, "I miss the auctioneer's chant, but this system worked fine for the flue cure sales this summer in North Carolina. The program had to be changed to accommodate the burley market here, but it will work okay. It's something new, though, and it'll take some getting used to by everybody."