TURLOCK -- Martin Machado said something or other really, really fast on Saturday.
The Winton resident competed in the World Livestock Auctioneer Championship along with 32 other entrants from the United States and Canada.
His jackhammer-fast chant meant little to the untrained ear, but the judges and many of the spectators knew just what he was saying.
"The main object is to be fast, but to have people understand you," Machado said after the first round.
A few hundred people came to the Turlock Livestock Auction Yard for the 49th annual event. It tested professional auctioneers on vocal clarity, bid-catching ability, conduct of a sale and knowledge of the livestock industry.
A faint scent of manure hung in the warm air of the indoor market as the auctioneers, most of them in sport coats and ties, took their turns at the microphone.
They called for higher and higher prices for the cattle romping in the ring just below them. They added "fill words" between the prices to keep up the rhythm, cramming more syllables into a second than you can imagine.
Machado said the chants have regional differences.
"Mine's what they call a California style," he said. "It's quick. It's smooth."
The crowd also got to hear chants from some of the past champions, such as 2000 winner Max Olvera of Turlock and "Skinner" Hardy of Oregon, who won in 1966.
"Open that gate oh, my!" Hardy said as about 15 steers entered the ring. "Have a look, folks. Here's an example of genetics right there in front of you, as good as it gets."
Hardy summed it up nicely. Old-fashioned livestock auctions are a key part of today's sophisticated meat and dairy industries, which value strong breeding in the livestock they buy.
"It's the best way to get the highest price for your cattle," said event chairman Jerry Etheredge, who owns a stockyard in Alabama.
The name of the winner was not available Saturday evening.
The event was put on by the Livestock Marketing Association, based in Kansas City, Mo. It was part of the group's annual conference, held over four days at the DoubleTree Hotel in Modesto and other locations.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2385.