Guest column/Fair just won’t be the same without Gary Cain

When scanning the Herald-Star obituary page on Wednesday, I let my eyes roam from the first column to the second, and I felt such a wave of regret and sorrow. Gary Cain had died.

Back in 1974, while serving as a home correspondent for the Herald-Star, I was asked to cover the Jefferson County Fair, held at the old Smithfield grounds, and came to know the energetic auctioneer as I worked as a stringer.

It was at the junior fair livestock auction where I met Gary on a Friday night — the auctions were held on that day back then. I thought I would be home at about 8 p.m., but little did I know that even back then those auctions went into the late hours.

I had the opportunity to get up and roam around searching for groups of 4-H members who had won blue ribbons to take their pictures. But Gary and his group had to stay at the auctioneer’s booth the entire time.

If he was not trying to bring a good price for a grand prize lamb, hog or steer, he was scanning the audience for bidders. They put in many hours for that event.

Over the years, his son, Brad, came on the scene and I am sure that his daughter, Michele, helped in keeping track of the bid prices. We always made comments how we were the constants on the livestock sale days.

Then he became ill and was not at one or two fairs because his voice was affected. I was never so happy as when he came back to that auctioneers booth. For more than 60 years, he would take on the responsibility to bring a high price for the grand and reserve champion market steers, lambs, hogs or whatever animal he was coaxing the buyer to raise his arm again and again for, to bring an outstanding price.

I don’t know if he was in 4-H in his youth, but he appreciated all the work the young owners put into raising the top quality animal.

Last year, we were seated side by side in the tent where a meal was served for the buyers and helpers. We laughed about probably being the oldest workers in the livestock building during the sale. There was even talk and laughter about us being pushed around by wheelchair but still doing our assigned work in years to come.

We compared the fact that we both had a health problem that took us down for awhile, mine being a brain aneurysm, and I am almost sure his was cancer.

We both lost a child, Michele in 2015 and our Larry in 2012, but we still carried on.

I cannot imagine how it will feel to be seated in the first row at the livestock ring and not see Gary up front for this coming fair. Rest in peace, Gary.

Your job is over down here, and you will be missed.

(McCoy, a resident of Smithfield, is the former food editor of the Herald-Star.)