As the auctioneer’s chant rang out at Creston Livestock Auction Wednesday, spotters were kept on their toes, catching bids from individuals in the packed sale barn.
A quick nod of a head or a wave of a hat urged auctioneer Bub Hoskins of Knoxville Regional Livestock to increase the bid and continue his call.
But this call for a single calf was unlike any other at the sale that moved about 2,500 head of cattle Wednesday.
Once Hoskins declared a winner and the sale was documented, the steer was donated back to the auction and Hoskins started his chant again.
Over and over the steer was sold, donated back and resold.
Eventually, the rules of the auction were suspended momentarily and bidders respectfully took turns calling out their number and naming their contribution to the sale.
Bids even came in via cell phone, pledging to the roll-over calf auction.
The sale wasn’t about the calf or the competition to out bid each other. Auctioneers, cattle owners and members of the community and around the nation came to donate their time and support to owners Tom and Leisa Frey after the drowning death of their two sons, T.J. and Nathan Saturday.
“It was a very humbling experience for Tom and Leisa,” said Corey Schultz, Livestock Marketing Association regional executive officer. “The community of Creston and livestock associations from across the state of Iowa stepped up to support the Frey family.”
More than $53,000 was raised on Wednesday alone and donations are still coming to the T.J. and Nathan Frey Memorial Fund. It will all be donated to St. Malachy School, but details of what the fund will be used for have not been finalized.
Tom Frey briefly addressed the crowd Wednesday to give an emotional thanks for their generosity and affirm their family’s faith — and education from St. Malachy — was helping during this challenging time in their lives.
“I really am humbled when I hear Tom express appreciation for the school,” said St. Malachy Principal John Walsh. “Tom and Leisa provide a great home environment for their children, they care for their children, and they nurture them.
“I believe that we helped them in raising their children, but their homelife, love, base and the support that they gave them is incredible. I think it is the significant piece in what type of boys they (Nathan and T.J.) were and how they lived their lives.”
Curt Sporleder — who owns Unionville Livestock Market in Unionville, Mo., with his wife Heather — partnered with Schultz to organize the roll-over calf sale and staff Wednesday and Friday’s auction.
“I felt like they (the Frey family) needed our help and the help from auctioneers across the United States,” Sporleder said. “We assembled a crew to help sell the market. I feel like the staff that was assembled did a very professional job, and we tried to do it the to best of our abilities to what Tom and Leisa’s customers are accustom to.”
The calf — which was donated by Unionville Livestock Market — will actually be sold by the pound during Friday’s sale. Sporleder has already committed the money made from the sale to the memorial fund.
Market estimates value the steer at approximately $1,400.
Nathan and T.J. ventured out to play on their family farm Nov. 30.
The brothers loved animals, fishing and doing chores around the farm. They also enjoyed playing ball and writing stories.
Walsh remembered the boys frequently shared jokes when they would talk to him in the hallway at St. Malachy.
“They were just good, honest kids who were just enjoying being kids,” Walsh said.
It was unseasonably warm for the last day of November. Temperatures climbed into the mid 40s, according to the National Weather Service.
According to an Adams County Sheriff press release, emergency crews from Prescott, Corning and Creston, Adams County Sheriff, Union County Sheriff and Emergency Medical Service and Iowa State Patrol responded to a call at 5:34 p.m. Saturday to 1623 Vanilla Ave., about eight miles northeast of Prescott.
Creston Fire Department — using ice rescue suits — located the bodies of Nathan and T.J., 9 and 11 years old respectively, under the ice.
Both boys were taken by air ambulance to Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines, but were pronounced dead upon arrival.
“They were inseparable, when you saw one, you saw the other,” Walsh said. “They took care of each other.”
Officials on the scene reported the ice was broken through about 15 feet from the shore and some of the boys’ belongings were located near the hole in the ice.
Joint services will be 10 a.m. Saturday at Holy Spirit Catholic Church.
Since the accident Saturday, the Creston community, friends, family and members of the livestock auction industry from across the nation have bonded together in support.
Walsh said late Saturday night, Creston High School Superintendent Steve McDermott called to express his sympathy and offer help if needed.
The Creston public fourth- and fifth-grade class sent cards to Nathan’s and T.J.’s classmates. Winterset Middle School sent a care basket for St. Malachy faculty and staff.
“On the community level, the outreach has been incredible,” Walsh said. “I really think that the reason of the outreach is because Tom and Leisa are just incredibly wonderful people.”
In addition to the roll-over calf sale Wednesday, Schultz and Sporleder are organizing the auction crew to handle Friday’s sale. All the workers and auctioneers — including 1996 World Champion Auctioneer Lanny Ireland and 2011 champion Charly Cummings — are working without pay.
“If you would have needed something, he would have been there for you,” said Darwin West, who helps run the hay sale at Creston Livestock Auction on Friday mornings and partners with the Frey family for home and farm auctions.
Sporleder added most of the volunteers run their own auctions and work competitively with Tom Frey in the livestock market.
“We work in a great industry,” Sporleder said. “There were a lot of markets where guys volunteered to come do anything, sort cattle, pin cattle back, do whatever needed to be done, but they had never met the Frey family. That’s powerful.”
Other events in the community include a candlelight vigil at Creston Livestock Auction 6 p.m. today before the start of the lighted Christmas parade.
During the visitation and funeral services, the brothers’ artwork and homework will be on display, as well as buckets to leave affirmations and memories of Nathan and T.J.
“Bucket filling” is a new program at St. Malachy that is part of its anti-bullying program. Instead of focusing on the negative act of bullying, students write notes to each other of positive and sincere affirmations and fill each other’s buckets.
“Monday morning was a very difficult time here,” Walsh said. “The teachers, faculty, staff and students were just heartbroken and just devastated by the deaths of these two boys.
“We, the adults, didn’t think about bucket filling that morning, but the kids did. The students understood, ‘hey, we can fill buckets, we can write notes to T.J. and Nathan.”
Those notes have overflowed the buckets and are now being taped to the boys’ lockers and desks.
Students will also make custom ornaments in memory of Nathan and T.J. and leave an empty chair for each brother at the holiday concert slated for 2 p.m. Sunday.
Walsh said the school is also planning a balloon release before Christmas break.
While the loss of Nathan and T.J. has left a void for the Frey family and Creston community, the support and contributions to the memorial fund will help keep the memory of the brothers alive for years to come.
“Every one of them (the Frey family) was proud to be from Creston, Iowa, today for the support the community showed them,” Sporleder said. “I know it meant a lot to them.”