Roswell Livestock Auction in the early 1950s (Submitted Photos).
By Christina Stock
Roswell Daily Record
The Historical Foundation for Southeast New Mexico, which is the financial steward to the Historical Society, invites the public to honor the Roswell Livestock Auction on March 24 during its annual Denim and Diamonds event at the Roswell Convention & Civic Center, 912 N. Main St., from 6 to 10:30 p.m. The award-winning Yarbrough Band will provide the musical entertainment.
Many locals would say the cattle industry is the heart and soul of the United States — no other industry represents the core strength of honor and the American way of life. This legacy continues at the Roswell Livestock Auction Sales Inc. for 64 years, with men and women sealing deals worth hundreds of thousands of dollars with a strong handshake. These deals help feed America.
Entering the metal building on Garden Avenue that leads to the offices on one side, the auctioneer seats and presentation space, and a restaurant on the other side, people get greeted by the words of the code of the West displayed on the wall. These words are framed by proud young 4-H and Future Farmers of America photos that the Wooton family sponsored in past FFA fairs, going back when the Wooton’s bought RLA from Dale and Kay Rogers in 1984.
The brothers Benny and Kyle “Smiley” Wooton are only the third owners of RLA. TM Dye was the first owner in the early ‘50s. Benny Wooton’s wife, Cindy, is the office manager. “We have between us three sons who work with us,” Benny Wooton said. “It is not only our family who work here. Like the Fox family, we have a lot of employees that have worked more than 30 years here. Different generations of that family. There are four or five families that have been with us for a long time.”
Cindy Wooten said their employees and many of their customers are like an extended family.
Most of the ranches in the 400 square miles that bring their livestock to RLA have been passed down within the families.
“There is still a high percentage of ranch owners who are descendants of the original first generation,” Benny Wooton said. “In the 1800s, nobody owned the land. If you controlled the water, you controlled the land, you didn’t own the land. That’s back in John Chisum’s time.
“Over time, it was deeded and then different families took over, some of them left, some of them came back, some of them combined together. There were large entities out of England and New York and Boston that actually owned the land.”
“The auction in its present situation started in the early ‘50s,” Benny Wooton said. He learned about livestock auction from his father, Larry Wooton, who was inducted into the Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2007.
“Our family has been a part of it since 1984,” Benny Wooton said. “It is not all about us. We got to step back and look at the history.”
For a year in 1968, Larry Wooton had leased RLA before taking over a livestock auction in Lovington.
“This area was a railroad stockyard where people brought in their livestock and put them on trains and shipped them out. Over time, another stockyard was built here and it was basically for sheep sales in the early ‘50s. The business started in ‘52, ‘54,” Benny Wooton said.
In the late 1800s, there were some trysts between sheep and cattle, but not in the 1950s. Many ranchers were combination ranchers having sheep and cattle.
Members of the Dye family, first owners of Roswell Livestock Auction.
“For years and years, they always said that the sheep paid a lot of the debts of the cattle,” Benny Wooton said with a laugh. “There were parts (of the landscape) that fit better to sheep and there are certain forages and grass that fit the cattle.”
Today, RLA concentrates primarily on cattle. They also added a trucking business which helps out smaller ranchers who cannot leave or have enough people to send to the weekly Monday auction in Roswell. There are five trucking receiving stations, three in New Mexico including Moriarty, San Antonio and Lordsburg, and in Texas, Van Horn and Pecos. RLA and the phones are manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for the convenience of their clients.
“It’s the nature of the game out there with the people that have small ranches,” said Benny Wooton. “They have 50 cows they take care of on the weekend and the family works somewhere else during the week. As a result a lot of their cattle work has to be done during the weekend.”
The Historical Foundation for Southeast New Mexico invites the public to honor the Roswell Livestock Auction on March 24 during its annual Denim & Diamonds event at the Roswell Convention & Civic Center, 912 N. Main St., from 6 to 10:30 p.m. The award-winning Yarbrough Band will provide the musical entertainment.
Catering is provided by Peppers Grill & Bar. Tickets are $75 per person. For more information and for reservations, call Montgomery at 575-910-1303.
Vision editor Christina Stock can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 309, or email@example.com.