REMEMBERING FONDLY: Times I Had with Harry Woodmansee

Steam Engines

Line up of engines at the 1962 show of the Michigan Steam Engine and Thresher's Club show.

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2075 Coburn Road Hastings, Michigan 49058

I said sometime back that I would write about some of my fondest memories of time that I have spent with Harry Woodman see.

I'm sure most of the readers have either met, or at least heard of Harry Woodman see and I consider it an extreme pleasure to have known him most of my life.

I guess the first time I saw Harry was at the Michigan Steam Engine and Thresher's Club Show back when it was held in Hastings, Michigan. I was just a young kid at the time, but I can still remember him climbing the wooden high ramp with a 16 HP Aultman-Taylor and the tug of war with his 40 HP Case. Harry always was quite the showman.

19 HP Port Huron engine #7991. The picture was taken in 1962 at the Michigan Steam Engine and Thresher's Club Show. Lynn Mix with shovel; Larry Mix on engine.

My dad and I would stop by Harry's mill shack and chew the fat with him. I was always amazed at all the old show bills on the walls. I thought this was the best wallpaper a steam engine man could possibly have. He had pictures and show ads of places I have never been. I can remember he had a big old black lab dog whose name was Mike. He also had a 'pet' mouse in the mill shack but I can't recall what he called it. Everyone knows that Harry was quite a story teller and I sat and listened to all his stories in which he would start off by saying, 'by da Jesus now let me tell ya,' and I knew we were in for some tall story telling. Harry always liked to show me little tricks, but he would never tell how he did them. The young kid that I was, I was quite fascinated.

In the winter months we would stop by his house and talk with him. His house was certainly a sight to behold, and I guess I had better leave it at that. We spent some good times around the old round oak wood stove.

In later years, I can remember Harry and his brother Ralph and our monthly meetings of the Michigan Steam Engine and Thresher's Club. Now Ralph was equally as gifted at story telling as Harry was, and if you were to get caught in between them it was like a custom stereo system! At times it almost seemed like a story telling competition and I loved every minute of it.!

Harry, Ralph, my dad (Lynn Mix) and I would travel to steam shows together. Harry and Ralph would always argue as to what direction we were going. My dad would try and tell them the direction we were going, but to no avail. Dad finally installed a compass in the car, but even that wouldn't cure the debate.

One of the best tricks we ever played on Harry was at Jim Whitbey's show in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Harry and quite a few other people were sleeping in the engineer's tent that was supplied by Jim. It was a Saturday night and we were all feeling fairly mischievous that night. To make a long story a little shorter, I will leave out some of the minor details, but anyway what we did was pick Harry up, bed and all, and carried him out in the middle of the wheat field. I can't remember everyone involved, but there were four or five of us. I remember my dad filling Harry's shoes full of sawdust from our shingle mill.

I think that was the same year we knocked the tent down on all those poor people trying to sleep. I do recall that it was the same year that Vern Ott fell asleep on the drive belt to the saw mill--he was still there when I got up Sunday morning. I would say I had more fun at Jim Whitbey's show than at any other show!

The last few years the old round oak stove was replaced by a gas stove, but the stories didn't change. I stopped and talked with Harry on my way home from work quite often and we would talk for hours about steam shows of past and present. He always had a bottle of 'heart medicine' by his chair, and he claimed that's what kept his heart going. He would take a good strong belt of this 'heart medicine' every morning. I always get a kick out of that.

One other 'trick' that we pulled on Harry was by Dale Lewis and I. Harry was belting up an engine on the sawmill and we were holding the belt for him. Every time he would back into the belt, we would throw the belt off the flywheel and tell him that he wasn't lined up right. After about the third time he caught on and he chewed us out in his own way. I can also recall hiding his car in the straw pile several times. Good thing Harry had a sense of humor. Otherwise, he would have probably 'killed' us.

Harry, Ralph and my dad are all gone now. I miss them all greatly, but life goes on.

I am showing my kids the ropes of operating steam engines. My seven-year-old boy is learning fast--he loves it. I learned one thing: don't tell him to put wood in the firebox, he will put enough wood in there to go to Florida and back! He can't quite see where he's going, so I have to help him steer, but he is trying and his enthusiasm is great.

If I might throw in a few good words about our show this year (Michigan Steam Engine and Thresher's Club, Mason, Michigan), and some of my experiences of getting ready for the show.

I decided that the engine could use a good coat of paint, so we started sanding, scraping, steam cleaning and using paint stripper. I started the end of May and didn't finish until the morning that Carl Turtle came after it. Every night after work, every weekend, and one week's vacation, I worked on cleaning and painting my 20 HP Advance Rumely, but we finally got it done, and I might say so myself, it looked fairly good. But in the meantime, I neglected to mow the grass, and when I got home from the show, the grass was extremely tall and I expected Tarzan to come swinging through my yard at anytime! But I finally got the grass mowed and everything else under control and I never did find Tarzan.

If I counted right, there were 34 steam engines at our show this year. I tried the block race with my 20 HP Advance Rumely, but I knocked the block over. Afterwards I decided that I will leave the block race to the younger generation, because arthritis in my hands makes it hard to grip the steering wheel and turn it fast.

I have been a member of the Michigan Steam Engine and Thresher's Club since 1962. I am proud to be a member of this organization because there are a lot of good people in the club.

Picture taken of a new 30 HP Advance at the factory in Battle Creek, Michigan. The man in the picture is Harry Mast who worked for the Advance Company.

There have been a lot of members of our club who have passed away over the years and I miss them, but I also feel lucky to have known them and to share their memories. I only hope God allows steam shows in Heaven!

I hope to see all of my friends at the 1996 steam shows around the Michigan, Indiana and Ohio areas. If anyone else has stories about Harry, or anyone else, please send them in to the magazine so that we can all share.