By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer
For more than 40 years, Haney Tate was known in the eastern New Mexico farm auction circuit for his dry wit.
Tate started auctioning farm equipment about the time World War II was beginning and ran his business, Tate Auction Service, until about 20 years ago.
Tate died Feb. 20 at his home. He was 90.
“He could tell more jokes and keep people laughing,” said his son Phillip Don Tate. “He was a live wire as far as saying kind-of-comical things.”
His children also remember him as a “die-hard” Democrat.
“This year I was really upset with him, but it didn’t do any good,” Phillip Tate said. He said they differed in their political leanings, but his father wouldn’t miss voting for anything.
Moves by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the middle of the Depression put Haney forever on the left.
“If it wasn’t for FDR they would have lost the farm back in ’33,” said Billy Tate, who currently runs the auction business.
The Tate family moved to the area just after the turn of the 20th century. They came to the area by taking advantage of the Homestead Act, legislation that helped populate much of the western United States by offering incentives to those willing to settle land.
The sixth of 11 children, Haney Tate was born on Jan. 1, 1915, in Ranchvale.
Early in his life, he was exposed to the auction world by his father, Vernon Tate, who would tell jokes from the stage and keep the crowds coming back for more.
“That’s part of the secret; you’ve got to keep people happy and laughing all the time,” Billy Tate said.
Haney Tate’s father died in the 1930s, about the time he was starting to get involved in the business. By the early 1940s, Haney began auctioning farm equipment and other assets in earnest, selling buggies, cows, registered bulls, tractors, engines, planters, wheat drills and a few other items just for the sake of humor.
Once he reached into a bucket and pulled out a pair of false teeth, soliciting bids from the crowd. Another time he sold a five-gallon bucket of junk to a friend for 50 cents.
Haney Tate had heart trouble in his later years, Billy Tate said. But he lived a full life, and had vibrant church involvement in Ranchvale, his sons said.
About 300 attended his funeral Wednesday, telling stories about the old auction days and the man known in eastern New Mexico as the auctioneer humorist.
“His word was gold and he’d do anything for you,” Billy Tate said.
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