Daily News Feature Writer and Radio's 'Joe's Journal'
It was hefty, beetle-browed (Two-ton) 'Tony' Paulin, tuning his television set as he basked in the lengthening shadows of the sylvan foliage at the Darke County, Ohio, woods, after the big threshermen's show was over. His full three days of being water boy, fire-stoker, extra engineer and head man of the left-handed monkey-wrench brigade and just drawn to a close. The hubbub of the smoke-bel-chin', steam-engine tooting, grain-separating, straw-stack blowing Darke county threshermen's reunion had come to a glorious, ear-splitting finale. The crowds had gone home, the engines had cooled and there was Two-ton Tony, all alone with his television set and a 12 Hp Gaar-Scott Steam Engine as his only aerial.
'What a innovation, using a steam threshing engine for a television aerial,' said I, loud enough for Tony to hear me. 'That engine certainly wasn't made originally to serve as an aerial for T-V, was it?'
'Nope it wasn't,' chortled Tony, whirling the dials to his favorite evening T-V western, smugly ensconced among his cider jug, wash pan, and sundry other accoutrements of camp life while, overhead, the big, black engine smokestack spiraled the smoke of dying embers skyward
He's always the first guy to arrive and the last to leave at the Darke County Threshing Reunion, or at the Elmer Egbert Buckeye Reunion (both in western Ohio). For Tony, better known as Heath Paulin to his inner circle cronies, is always the 'left-handed monkey wrench' doing' the right-handed job of any engineer that happens to be elsewhere when something's to be done and Tony's there to do it. Can we make ourselves a little clearer by saying that Tony Paulin, like Rube Goldberg, is always where pistons are flying and wheels a-whirring and the smoke's the thickest tightening a bolt here with his big pipe wrench, dropping pin on a wagon tongue there, serving as engineer on a 2-horse upright steam engine belted to the cider press, or pumping water into the big water wagon down by the 'crick'. And when, and if his work-a-day ever ends, come eventide, there's Tony Paulin either listening to his favorite T-V program, wired to a sputtering, dying steam engine for aerial, or shuffling cards for a round of euchre with his 86 year-old Mommy who goes along to enjoy the outdoor camp life.
If the swashbuckling, buxom, but good-natured bettle-browed Heath Paulin looks every inch a steam engineer, it comes naturally. For him those years of smelling coal smoke and dodging the cow-catchers of the old Dayton & Union locomotives while on the track-laying, weed-pulling gang, or his hitch with the Pennsylvania Railroad have left their mark. And the stories he can swap 'round an old caboose pot-belly stove, on a winter's night, of the hair-raising happenings on the PRR high-iron or the weed-patch run of the old D & U have already become legends of classical proportions.
'Never forget the time I had raided a paw-paw patch 'longside the D & U tracks near Gordon,' reminisces Tony ''Had several gunny-sacks full of 'em ripe 'n jucy. But by the time I arrived on my little hand-car at Greenville, the track-gang along the way had robbed those gunny-sacks empty.'
Or the time that Tony was heading east toward Greenville on an inspection tour of track and weeds from Union City and that new-fangled diesel locomotive sneaked around the curve, westbound, heading straight for him.
'Couldn't see that blasted diesel coming no smoke warning like the steamers,' says Tony. 'Boy did ol Tony ever jump off that old hand-car of his and head for the tall weeds. Didn't have time to remove my car from the rails. But boy did I ever tell those fellows off when I got back to the depot. They had promised there was to be no train that day.'
Or the time that Tony was working with the weed-pullin' gang enrout from Union City to Greenville, demonstrating his 'specially patented 'Bush-Whacker' weed chopper that he'd invented in his back-shop and fashioned from an old steel saw-blade. 'Better hide it. or the company will spot it and claim the patent rights,' cautioned the section boss to the fertile-brained Tony Paulin.
Besides his preoccupation with sundry old antique gas engines the versatile Tony Paulin did a hitch at repairing old-time radios in the early days of crystal cat-whiskers, WD-11 and WD-12 tubes vintage of the goose-neck, tin-horn loudspeaker and headphone era.
And now that he's retired from the B & O rostrum, big Heath Paulin still is 'invited' by the boys to now and then sneak a 'free ride.' in the cab of a railroad locomotive enroute between Greenville and the Gem City of Dayton, Ohio. Unless, of course, one of the straw-bosses happens to spy him and nudge him in his belly asking him, 'Tony have you paid for your 'passenger ticket'?'
We expose our sparse locks to the hot rays of the sun by doffing our 'stiff- katy' to you, Tony, for being the first to successfully bridge the old with the new by hooking up a steam engine and a T-V for your evening's entertainment. But, pray tell us. how in the world are you going to drag that 12 HP Gaar Scott around with you as your portable television aerial?