READING, Mich. -- For more than six decades, Martin "Barney" Barnhart has electrified crowds as an auctioneering icon. Perhaps the oldest auctioneer in Hillsdale County, about 95 miles southwest of Detroit, Barnhart, 86, of Reading, can still be found at the Hillsdale County Fairgrounds on Saturday mornings selling hay and pigs. His auctioneering career began in 1942 when he traveled nationally for four weeks with the Redford Auctioneering School of Woodville, Ohio. Largely self-taught, Barnhart earned his first auctioneering job after selling a wagon load of items during a family homestead auction. Following the event, Barnhart was offered a job as a Saturday morning auctioneer at the Andy Adams Sale Barn held at the fairgrounds. Since then, he's worked other venues, but eventually returned to the legendary Saturday sale where he's worked for the last five to six years. "Barney has been at it forever -- he's a great auctioneer and he's back where he started in the beginning," fellow auctioneer Ken Frecker said. "He's a great personality and people like him." Barnhart remembers when the auction ring was a picket fence and hay bales served as seats. "Now, we have a modern building with bleachers and a nice arena," he said. Barnhart began auctioneering at age 24 and has sold myriad items, including prize-winning hogs, a horse-drawn milk wagon and smaller items that fetched as little as $1. He currently spends a few hours, at most, "barking out calls. "The best part about it is seeing all the people and meeting new friends," he said. Darin Spieth, who has been an auctioneer for 19 years and the benefactor of Barnhart's professional tutelage, said he is one his longtime admirers. "I used to go to auctions with my grandparents and watched Barney and Phil (Haines) -- that's what made me fall in love with auctioneering," he said. Barnhart credits Ruby, his wife of 60 years, for much of his success. He's won numerous awards for showmanship, including an award from the Michigan State University Exposition Center. Today, he lives on the 202-acre Reading farm he grew up on -- and where he still has a small dairy herd. The most important part of being an auctioneer is "knowing what you've got and being honest about it," Barnhart said. "Sellers will select an auctioneer they know and trust an auctioneer's life and service is built on faith, love, hope, honesty and wisdom." He plans to continue auctioneering. "I can't retire," Barnhart said. "It keeps me young, always having something to do."