Leonard and the Old Timers

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Box 476 Jamestown, North Dakota 58402

This story took place quite a ways back, so there may be some errors!

Leonard Jensen came home from a run of threshing. He had $200.00. He went to one of the neighbors to see if he would sell a sawmill which hadn't been used recently. The neighbor said the old mill wasn't worth anything but there was a good belt in the shed. He said, 'Give me $50.00 for it and you can have everything there.' Leonard went home, got a team and wagon. I don't remember how many trips he had to make to get it all home. Then he went to the lumber yard and bought timber to rebuild the mill. They were living in the Turtle Mountains west of St. John, North Dakota. He cut poplar logs on his father's farm, steamed up his father's engine and started sawing. He said people were buying all the lumber he could saw. They were even buying the slabs and sawdust. He said he was making lots of money.

I don't know how long Leonard stayed in North Dakota. In the Spring of 1939, Gust Westvik had a large job northwest of Effie, Minnesota. He ended up with a large number of tie bolts. By this time, Leonard had moved to Bigfork, Minnesota. He built another mill and powered it with a Packard engine. Gust offered him ten cents per tie and he would furnish all expenses and the men needed.

I was working just across #6 Highway from Gust's camp, peeling cedar posts. The exhaust of the Packard could be heard for miles when it came into the cut. Leonard had no governor on the mill, but had a wire running back to the hash where he stood as he sawed. When the bolt was coming into the saw, he would touch the wire with his knee throwing her wide open.

After 1939 I don't remember seeing Leonard until about fifteen years after World War II. I got some news from his brother-in-law, Richie Olson, who was a truck driver.

There was a machinist by the name of Persons who put some time in his shop while waiting in Grand Rapids for repairs. I saw some fairly short lengths of steel in a rack. Mr. Persons said they were drill steel. They usually bought their drills, but in case they couldn't replace a drill he kept this steel so he could make one. Some years before, a tool maker came to town and charged $25.00 a piece tuition. Mr. Persons said he had the largest shop in town so he got his tuition for use of the shop. He said you heated a piece of steel and set it in a vise. Drill steel had to be worked at a low heat on a warm anvil.

I guess Mr. Persons has gone where good craftsmen go. Leonard Jensen bought the machinery which he moved to his shop in Bigfork. Olson said he was making more than ever before. I didn't ask too many questions but it looked as though he had done a lot of sawing during war years. He had two 120 HP Buda diesels. He also had two sawmills which needed rebuilding. He bought one of the Budas and liked it so well he bought a second the next year. He claimed those engines had so much power that they seemed to idle along all day with the governor not opening. They would saw all day on ten gallons of diesel fuel. He had a lot of used equipment on his place. If someone tried to buy it, Leonard would say, 'It's paid for, and I might need it some day.'

When I was there he was making a piece. I asked what it was. He said he didn't know. 'Rajalas sent it over.' Said he didn't know why their own machinist didn't do it.

When I can get around again I would like to go to see Leonard and what old timers are left from when I worked in that area.