Iron Men Of The Month

12-horse Case

Joe Fahnestock

Content Tools


union city, INDIANA

Ike and Mike, they look alike,
So do Dennis and Dwight.
No one can tell them apart
Either in daytime or at night.

The teacher calls on Dennis
And up pops Dwight to recite.
Mom yells for Dennis
When Dwight hoves in sight.

And poor Pop has spanked Dennis
When he should a paddled Dwight.
Hard to figure which one is wrong,
And which one is right.

'I would be a real tizzy 'n twirl,
If both boys wooed the same girl.
The only 'female' they ever chase
Is a slim-boilered gal named 'Case.'

Yes, it's mighty lucky for the rest of the human race that the Seman twins, Dennis and Dwight, have so far courted no other love than a trim little 12-horse Case. Lucky, we say, because of the frustrations that might otherwise develop should they ever go a-court in' gals that aren't made of mere iron and steel. Such as for instance the mix-ups that might ensue should they ever double-date and finally wind up with problems of 'Who was loving whom?' Or, with neither gal knowing exactly who was who may be Dennis's gal falling in love with Dwight and Dwight's gal wind up kissing Dennis. The ramifications being so frightful to foretell, there is even the distinct possibility that both gals could wind up loving the same fellow without knowing whether 'twas Dennis or Dwight. And that wouldn't be right.

Iron-Men Seman twins and their 12-horse Case at Darke County Threshers, Greenville, Ohio. After snapping this picture back in 1969, it took me three years to find out which was which. Dennis to the left, Dwight to the right, with the Case in the middle (which leaves me in a muddle). And I still wouldn't know the difference if they switched places. Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana 47390.

So now you can see the dilemma I was in, when three summers ago I took a picture of a 12-Horse Case, out at the Darke County Threshers, with Dennis and Dwight lolling on the deck, not knowing the left one from the right. And, for three years I've pondered just how to get them straight as to whether in that picture it was Dwight or Dennis on the left, or Dennis or Dwight on the right. (And I'm still not sure, after going through all that again.)

Anyhow, I was out to the Lloyd Seman farm, east of Greenville, Ohio, taking more pictures of Dennis and Dwight around their engines. Whenever I'd be asking Dwight a question, and jotting down his answers, my wife would be conversing with Dennis, and I'd wind up writing 'Dennis said this,' when I should've been scribbling 'Dwight said that' and vice versa. And I still came home as mixed up as ever as to who said what. But it doesn't matter, as I think that even Dennis and Dwight are sometimes confused as to which one is Dennis and which one is Dwight.

But happily, though, it did happen that my first picture of this look-alike twain did turn out to be Dennis on the left of the Case deck, with Dwight on the right. And so, I quickly called into play a certain psychological quirk a rhyme in time, so to speak, which saved me from the horns of this dilemma. Namely, that 'Dwight rhymes with right', and thereafter I made 'dern' sure that Dwight was on the right in every picture I took thereafter. (You can betcha!)

The boys were just fourteen when I took that first snap-shot of them, all pooped out from a day at the Darke County Threshers Show, and leaning wearily on the rear deck of their little mighty 12-Horse Case. Now, three years later, they were seventeen, just returned from a day at the Greenville High School and ready to do another jag of moonlighting at putting their Case back together again in the Seman farm shop where it was perched for the winter.

The canopy had been removed, the better to see the work they were doing on their engine's innards. The sheet-metal jacket had been removed from the cylinder, and new-wood slats installed for insulation and support when the jacket would be replaced. There was Dennis on the left, handing over the three-ball, two-inch Pickering Governor to Dwight on the right (I hope I've got this right), ready to re-mount it atop the Case boiler.

'We tore the shaft and flywheel off and found the journals and shaft rough and rusted,' quota Dennis. 'Had them turned down smooth again at Corning Glass Company by a fellow named Hubey Monnin.'

'We got all the books we could find on pouring babbitt bearings and read them, then over Christmas holidays we tried pouring new bearings for our Case,' explained Dennis. 'We poured halves at a time, four times one for each bottom-half and one for each top-half. But we wound up pouring nine times because, after we had packed them with cardboard and putty, we still got leaks. We wound up with four or five pounds of babbitt between the wing sheet and the boiler that we can't get out.' (But boys, won't that help out by giving added weight for traction?)

It was in a back-issue of IRON MEN ALBUM that the Seman twins spotted an auction billing, listing two steam engines a 12-Horse Case and a 19-65 Port Huron which were to be sold in the Muncie, Indiana area, April 29, 1969. Together, with their father, Lloyd Seman, they attended said sale and the rest is history. They came home with the 12-Horse Case the first steam engine in the Seman family.

'Neither our Dad or Granddad had a steam engine rig,' explain the boys, who grew up on a small farm a short distance to the northwest of where they now live. They were only tots five or six years of age when their Dad brought them over to the Harve Estey Woods, where the Darke County Steam Threshers held their summer reunions for years, located on the very farm where they now reside.

SEMAN TWINS PUT 12 HORSE CASE BACK TOGETHER AGAIN. Dennis to the left, Dwight to the right, Case in the middle. When they were babbitting bearings a leak developed, now they have a five-pound chunk of babbit between wing sheet and boiler which they can't get out. It's become a part of the engine.

SEMAN TWINS AND THEIR 22 x 36 INCH AVERY SEPARATOR. They belt this to the Case for threshing a jag o' wheat, now 'n then. Dennis to the left, Dwight to the right, (we hope). Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana 47390.

'The first steam engine we ever saw looked to us then as big as a railroad locomotive,' says Dwight.

'It must've been a Baker Engine, because it had the silver front,' commented Dennis.

From then on the boys' Dad kept bringing them each summer to the Darke County Steam Threshers Reunions. Later after the death of Harve Estey, the Semans moved across the fields and onto the Estey farmstead. When the Darke County Threshers brought their engines out to the former Estey Woods, now the Semen Woods, Dennis and Dwight could keep tab on all the setting-up proceedings right from their breakfast nook in Mom's kitchen. Just a short hop down across the 'crick' and over the hill was all it took for them to 'sneak' into the big show by way of a side entrance each day. It was just like having their own steam engine show, right out their back door. And, we ask you, what more potent way is there for two growing, strapping twin boys to get 'steam in their blood' than to have a steam engine show every year right on their own farm just a hop, skip and a jump away for four lanky legs and 'no pay'.

Anyhow, Dad Seman bought the Case Engine. But we leave you to guess who 'hogs' the deck of it, fondles it, runs it, blows the whistle on it and shows off on it around the Darke County Steam Threshers' Reunions and who has to work on it when something goes 'bust' on it and needs fixing. Or who polishes the big brass eagle on the front of the smoke box, or shakes the grates and lugs the wood and coal to feed the hungry firebox, fusses and fumes over the draft when it gets plugged up, and puts the thing to bed at nights and lays awake till the early morning hours worrying about it till it's time to get up and start all over again. Dennis and Dwight that's right. For poor old Dad's fun ended at the auction, paying the bill. But theirs had just begun.

Dennis and Dwight always present one of the most reassuring sights with their Case on the Darke County Reunion grounds. Like Ike and Mike, these two look-alikes are the most unobtrusive engineers that ever took an engine to a threshermen's reunion. Nobody, but nobody can tell them apart. Most everyone calls Dwight, Dennis, and Dennis, Dwight. And so resigned to the situation have the twain become that they no longer try to correct the inquisition forced upon them by their inquisitors. Dwight just passes himself off as Dennis, and Dennis as Dwight unless someone makes a point of it by callipering noses and measuring ears in millimeters. There is just no other way to tell which from which. And after you've done it, you'll still wind up calling Dwight, Dennis, and Dennis Dwight. (Right?)

It was over into another barn that the Seman twins led me to show me their 22 x 36 inch Avery Separator which, every now and then they belt to the 12-Horse Case to thresh a jag of wheat whenever the occasion calls.

'They surely can use a separator around here,' quipped my wife. 'Just to separate Dennis from Dwight so a person knows who they're talking to.'

After all, the boys have no sister to set folks right as to which is Dennis or which is Dwight.

In yet another barn, Dennis and Dwight showed me their latest pride a big 25-50 Avery Gas Tractor of 1921 vintage which was purchased in the Fall of 1970 over by Versailles Village, Ohio. And back in the corners of the barns, too dark to snap a picture, lurk two ancient gas engines which the boys someday hope to restore and paint. (But as yet 'aint').

The butt of many a joke amongst the older, more experienced engine men around the Darke County Threshers' Reunions, Dennis and Dwight like to tell about the time their Case just wouldn't draw fire out the stack.

'Two years ago, during the 1970 Darke County Reunion, someone stuffed newspapers down our smoke stack. We kept trying and trying to make fire,' said Dennis. 'But, try as hard as we did for two hours we couldn't.'

Then it was that Uncle Charlie Ditmer came up, chewing on a fresh cigar, and, sizing up the situation, suggested, 'Did you ever think of looking down the smoke stack?' (They did. And it was. Plugged, that is.)

Though both Dennis and Dwight fire and run the Case, according to Dennis they never argue, except for when it comes to technicalities such as turning off the cocks.

'And when it comes to crawling into the firebox, well I have to do that,' says Dennis. 'One time I had just crawled out of the firebox, all sooty and grimy, and just then some fellow came to look after a horse he boarded here. When he saw me, he asked, 'Where's Aunt Jemima?' '

'I just don't like getting all that soot down my back,' says Dwight who helps out with all other jobs but that.

It's a fright this business of separating Dennis and Dwight.

'Mom still gets us mixed up now and then, but not so much as she used to,' says Dennis.

'Most of our classes in Greenville Senior High School are attended separately to help out,' says Dwight. 'But our English teacher can't tell us apart when we attend that class together.' (Pity the poor school ma'rm's plight which one's Dennis and which one's Dwight?)

SEMAN TWINS SPENT WINTER BABBITTING BEARINGS AND GETTING 12 HORSE CASE READY FOR THE SUMMER SHOWS-Dennis on the left, Dwight on the right, seen placing three-ball, two-inch Pickering Governor atop the boiler. Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana 47390.

Both Dennis and Dwight expect to enroll at Ohio State this summer, hoping of course to 'play hookey' when Darke County Reunion time rolls around so they can run their newly-babbitted and refurbished Case Engine once again for the duration.

'We're both going to study to become veterinarians,' they say. But nobody will ever know who's doctoring the cow and who's doctoring the horse unless it comes straight from the horse's mouth.

For their youthful zest in falling in love with a steam engine when most other boys their age go golliwog over girls for nagging Dad to buy them a Case instead of a hot-rod to race for that old-time Yankee 'Do-it-yourself' Spirit of working on it themselves to keep her running for the downright fun everyone has trying to figure which one is which Dennis and Dwight Seman have earned their seat in our vaunted Hall of Iron Man Fame. Though they're skinny enough to sit side-by-side on it, they might have to wind up sitting in each other's laps, which is their problem to figure. Though we would like to know which one sits in which one's lap. (We sure would!)

We doff our stiff-katy to these ever-together, look-alike steam engine lads for reverting back to steam in the third generation of a family that never had it. And thus perpetuating, as they do, that grand and glorious American heritage down on the farm.

Now let's see it's Dennis on the left, and Dwight on the right, with the Case in the middle and me in a muddle. And I've gone nuts see in' double!