ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Howard McCall doesn’t know how to sleep much after the sun rises or how to stop working before it sets.
Most people are content to work a 40-hour week, and relax on the weekend while indulging in a hobby or two.
McCall isn’t most people. He is a real estate broker, developer, rancher, pumpkin patch founder, umpire, gardener and auctioneer.
“I work 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.,” he said. “That’s how I grew up. I was taught you work long days.”
The 70-year-old East Mountains resident never takes work more than 30 minutes from his home or office, he votes Republican and he never travels anywhere in Albuquerque at night without his gun.
McCall was born in Oklahoma, but his parents migrated to the Hobbs area for work in the oil fields when he was a small child. He said his father set the example, working hard to support the family. He was raised attending the Church of Christ, which would influence the way he lived his life as well. He met his wife, Sue, while they were both students at Eastern New Mexico University. They have been married 50 years and have four sons and 11 grandchildren.
McCall came to Albuquerque in 1973 to be a math teacher after earning a degree in mathematics and religion. He was an umpire and one of his umpire friends suggested that he would make a great real estate agent.
“I told him ‘I don’t think I’m much interested in selling real estate,'” McCall said. “Then I decided to give it a try.”
It turns out he was good at it. He said that in 1975 he made more money selling real estate than teaching.
“In 1975, the most expensive home I sold was $35,000,” he said. “I thought I hit a home run.”
To date, the most expensive home he’s sold is over $1 million. In 1976, he opened his own real estate company, Capital Realty Inc., which he still owns today. He has continued to sell real estate but eventually transitioned into developing subdivisions and a few small shopping centers.
The 1980s came around and McCall’s business was still growing, but he wanted to pursue something that caught his interest as a member of 4-H in high school.
“I went to a lot of auctions,” he said. “Auctioneering looked like fun, and I wanted to do it.”
He signed up for a 10-day auctioneer course in Texas. The class consisted of practicing tongue twisters and learning about the ins and out of the auctioneering world. McCall decided to use his new skills to help local nonprofit organizations raise money. He said that as part of his religion growing up, his parents always stressed serving and giving back to the community.
One of the biggest auction fundraisers he does every year is for the Albuquerque Christian Children’s Home. The charity provides a home for abused and neglected children. The home’s executive director Everett White has become a good friend of McCall’s.
“I think he’s a very giving and wonderful man,” White said. “He goes out of his way to help the home. I know when he says something, that’s what he means. I can depend on him.”
McCall also raises Black Angus cattle and is the founder of the popular McCall’s Pumpkin Patch, a business he eventually sold to his son Kevin. In the 1990s, McCall used to sell his pumpkins to Walmart but one year they refused to pay for his entire batch. So after heading into Albuquerque with a load of pumpkins and returning with the same load, he began reconsidering doing business with the retail giant. It just so happened that a friend of his, a teacher, called soon after and asked if she could bring a class to his pumpkin patch. The kids enjoyed themselves so much it gave him an idea.
“The next year I decided to send a flier to all the elementary principals in Santa Fe and Albuquerque,” he said. “By Oct. 1, I had reservations for 9,000 (kids).”
McCall will be the auctioneer for the Albuquerque Garden Center’s first-ever auction on Saturday, Feb. 23. One of the donated items is a 1929 Mercedes Convertible Replica. The organization sells plants, hosts flower shows and provides seminars and other courses to the general public. The center itself has an extensive horticultural library and a hotline for gardening questions.
One of McCall’s other hobbies is growing prize-winning dahlias and roses, which he showcases at the State Fair each year. His love of gardening led to his becoming a member of the garden center.
“When a friend of mine became president, I suggested they do an auction,” he said. “I told them I would be the auctioneer.”
Diana Baca met McCall many years ago after buying a home from him. The two struck up a friendship that has lasted decades.
“He’s basically just very good-hearted and honest,” she said. “He knows a lot about a lot of things. Whenever I have a question about anything, I call him first.”
McCall said he doesn’t think he will ever retire unless he can convince his wife to leave New Mexico. He suggested Costa Rica but she wasn’t keen on that idea. Hawaii was also a no-go. He could have a few decades of work ahead of him if genetics hold true. His father, 93, and mother, 90, are both still alive.
“I don’t know what’s in store for me,” he said. “My wife likes to stay at home. Not me. I’m adventurous.”