Fast-talking Norma Sanders believes that she was born to be an auctioneer — albeit almost too early.More than 60 years ago, when the New Mexico woman decided that selling livestock was a better career choice than concert violinist, she had a difficult time finding an auction school that would accept a woman.Finally, after being turned down by three all-male schools, she enrolled in the Missouri Auction School in Kansas City. In 1950, at age 20, she graduated No. 1 in her class of 40. She was the only woman.“I remember the first sale I was asked to attend,” recalled Sanders, now 81. “We went to Hays, Kansas, (and) they wanted to see what I could do. I was a little nervous in the beginning, but once I got the hang of it, there was nothing to it.”After the sale, the owner of the barn invited her back for his monthly horse sale.“So I got off to a pretty good start,” she said.At 5 p.m. Friday, the woman known as “America’s Only Cowgirl Auctioneer” during the 1950s and 1960s will briefly emerge from a 23-year retirement to help sell a sorrel stallion owned by longtime friend Shelly Burmeister Mowery of Weatherford.Sanders, one of the nation’s first professional female livestock auctioneers and, like Mowery, a member of the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, will make her special appearance at the National Cutting Horse Association Summer Select Yearling Sale.The event is at the Will Rogers Equestrian Center, 1501 Rip Johnson Road in Fort Worth.“I’ve always admired Norma for her accomplishments as an auctioneer,” Mowery said. “I’m confident that she will get top dollar for my horse, and I appreciate everyone who has helped make this possible.”For Sanders, auctioneering is a higher calling.“You have to remember that ole’ boy over there — if he hasn’t got but one cow to auction, that might be the only money he has to live on for a certain length of time. So, you’ve got to get every dollar you can out of it,” she said.Sanders practiced her craft throughout the United States until the early 1990s.“I was the only woman auctioneer at livestock auctions for many years,” she said. “Men liked me but didn't want me in their field. It was a head-butting job for a lot of years.”She believes that Mowery’s sorrel stallion, Some Kinda Kat, will go for a lot of money. “I have no qualms about my ability to do the auction. I just hope everyone brings a large checkbook,” Sanders said, with a smile.For her part, Mowery owns and operates a cutting horse facility with her husband, Rick, in Weatherford. She was first runner-up to Miss Rodeo America in 1978 and was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1990, one year after Sanders.Eighty-five elite cutting-bred horses will be auctioned at the Yearling Sale, which is being produced by Western Bloodstock LTD of Weatherford.
Lance Winter, 817-594-9902, Ext. 102 Twitter: @Lancewinter