Auctioneer pulling the pin

Pulling up to the estate sale of Ray Martin at Nickel Lake Shores east of Fort Frances, there is little doubt who the auctioneer is. One of the tallest people in the milling crowd, along with a mustache, cowboy hat, and a boisterous laugh, Rod Salchert is hard to miss.
But after 32 years in the business, Salchert will be “pulling the pin.” He won’t be seen quite as often cracking jokes from wagons and podiums surrounded by boxes, antiques, machinery, and people.
“My family is taking bets that I won’t cut down,” said Salchert, but added he’s already turned down a number of auctions.
Greeted by friends and acquaintances everywhere he goes, Salchert has a lively personality. And as one of the district’s leading auctioneers, has become a bit of a celebrity.
“Yeah, I love meeting people,” he said. “One of the things that makes you successful is learning to read people.”
Salchert became an auctioneer when, in October, 1967, he asked if he could tag along with an experienced auctioneer who let him lead the way at a Stratton farm sale.
“I was a boy and I listened. I knew this old-timer who had an auction service here,” he recalled. “The first sale I did was for Harry Caul up at Frog Creek.
“I was sweating like a bullet and colder than could be.”
Although Salchert has done hundreds of auctions since, he still has to steady his nerves before he begins. “I guess I’ll go for my nervous pee,” he said before beginning the Nickel Lake sale.
“You’re always very nervous for the first 10 to 15 minutes. You go for a walk before you start and make sure your kidneys are empty,” he explained.
While Salchert is often recognized as the auctioneer, it has, for the most part, been a sideline for him. Born here in Rainy River District, he took off for a year of school in Dorset, Ont. years ago. He then began a 35-year career with the Ministry of Natural Resources, some of which was spent as a park ranger.
He spent two years living on an island in the middle of Quetico Park, and was the last year-round ranger to work there.
Salchert then returned to Fort Frances to work for the ministry, and has been doing auctions on the side ever since. He’s sold everything from doorknobs and dishes to tractors and bulls but the big sales are his favourite.
“You always love to sell the big machines. It takes the same amount of time to sell that cardboard box as it does that fridge,” he pointed out.
Salchert still will do a few auctions, and will work for fellow auctioneer Telford Advent when he has really big sales. But he plans to give up estate sales to spend more time at his Stratton farm, where he has another hobby–rebuilding antique tractors.
He has three more auctions lined up this summer, a farm sale at Corny Fehr’s in Stratton on Saturday, a gun auction May 6 at the Rainy River Rec Centre, and a sale June 3 at Alan Anderson’s just south of Devlin.
Salchert is very comfortable in Rainy River district, where he and his wife have raised three daughters and a son.
“Like one old-timer told me, I don’t think there’s a place in the district where you could break down and no one will help or invite you in for supper,” he said.
Listening to Salchert’s quips and jokes from a podium or wagon, it’s apparent he has plenty of good stories to tell under his broad-rimmed hat.
“This is the one that if it could talk, it would have to be burnt,” he said, straightening it.