Iron Man Of The Month

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Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana 47390 Whenever the delicate touch of the feminine hand is needed 'round an engine, it's when it needs its smokebox door re-lettered. Here Iron-spouse Erna lends that special touch-and again under the critica
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Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana 47390 At Old-time Threshers & Sawmillers Reunion, Ft. Wayne, Indiana, Erna Wright lends femine touch at stoking the Baker firebox under the critical eye of her lord high-mighty, Iron-Man, Frank Wrig
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‘Frank, you did remember to bank the fire down in the Baker
before coming to bed, didn’t you?’

‘Yes, Dear.’

‘Frank, you checked the water in the boiler?’

‘Yes, Dear.’

‘And oh yes, Frank — you did walk the dog and then put him
to bed?’

‘Yes, Dear.’

Everyone’s heard, no doubt, of that famous radio
question-and-answer Bible team of Frank and Ernest. Well, not to be
confusing, this story happens to be about a well-known
question-and-answer ‘Baker’ team known as Frank and Erna.
‘Wright’ that is!

For when it comes to asking questions (barbed or otherwise)
’bout a certain Baker Engine, beloved by both, well Erna knows
how to ask ’em. And Frank Wright, never confined to a straight
jacket (bless his soul), always shakes himself free with a very
soft and quite diplomatic answer of ‘Yes Dear.’

It doesn’t matter whether the question’s popped at high
noon on a sweltering July day during some mid western
threshermen’s reunion, as to whether Frank’s oiled the
governor and wrist-pin, or whether Erna happens to wake up and pop
the question to Pop in the middle of the night’s slumber.
It’s always Frank answering softly and assuredly, ‘Yes,
Dear’ – then all is well. No argument here – they’re both

They’re always fixtures around any tri-state area
threshermen’s reunion in Ohio, Indiana or Michigan — are Iron
Man, Frank Wright, and Iron Missus, spouse Erna. And they’re
always both ‘draped’ over the deck of their pet 19-65 Baker
Engine, garbed in their usual attire of red and white polka-dot
engineers’ caps, gray coveralls and possibly betraying a thin
veil of coal dust on cheeks, depending upon the duties of the

Whether at National Threshers Association at Wauseon, Ohio, or
Old Time Threshers and Sawmillers at Fort Wayne, Indiana, for Iron
Man, Frank Wright, the day begins with the usual stoking of wood
slabs from the nearby sawmill, for an early warm up of old Abner
Baker’s\innards, followed of course by generous portions of
chunk-coal to lend life and duration to the wood-fed flames that
always feel so comfy and homelike around the open firebox door of
an early morn. A check of the steam and water gages, a look at the
top of the stack to note the draft and direction of the morning
breeze, a grab for the oil can for a quick-’round of valve gear
and rod bearings-it’s merely that wake-up routine that begins
the threshermen’s day for Iron Man Frank while Iron Missus Erna
is busy flopping flap-jacks in their modern camp trailer under the
trees nearby.

And, with all that, there’s time for Frank to visit with the
boys in the Men’s Emporium down the way while smoothing off the
chin and removing from the cheek what remains from the day before
and yet be back to begin his rigorous day with a heaping stack
o’ flap-jacks smothered in syrup ‘n butter.

Then it is that our Iron Man Frank, having dispensed heartily
with the morning’s repast, saunters forth with a fresh-lit
cigar to put final touches to ol’ Abner while Erna is stuck
with the more menial and wifely task of the silverware and

But not for long are our Iron Man and his ‘woman Friday’
bogged down in such earthy tasks as polishing up? a Baker Engine
and drying the breakfast dishes. For yet while the mornin’s dew
is wet upon the blade these twain are off together ‘pon the
vibrating deck in quest of whatever ventures the day’s agenda
might bring forth. Should it be that a jag of wheat needs to be
threshed, Iron Man Frank might dispense with the formalities of
lining up the 19-65 to the separator whereupon, relinquishing his
post, he promptly steps down and sprints ‘longside to help with
the belt while Erna takes over at the throttle. Or if perchance a
log or two needs sawing Frank can be counted on to hog the throttle
while Erna lends feminine pulchritude, like an ornament atop the
fireman’s seat box. But should Harold Gay announce it’s
time for the Wrights to belt up for a demonstration of the Baker
fan at the Oldtime Threshers and Sawmillers at Fort Wayne, Ind.,
both Frank and Erna might well take turns at big-holing the
throttle to make ol’ Abner snort ‘n bark.

Iron Man, Frank Wright, is one of the quiet, dignified type of
engineers — the kind of fellow always ready to offer a wrench, a
hammer or pair of pliers to the other fellow who’s working on
his engine and needs one. Always the gentleman, he’s never
without lending a hand to help a neighbor or speaking the right
word to lift morale when everything else has gone wrong. Ever the
gentleman and philosopher in the crowd, though sparse of speech,
Iron Man Frank Wright can be unfailingly counted upon to enliven
any conversation with a generous seasoning of dry wit and wisdom.
Dress him up in his Sunday-go-to-meetin’ suit, stiff shirt
‘n collar and he looks the part of the metropolitan church
preacher. Let him clamp the inevitable cigar between his molars and
he’s at once the college campus professor. But on the deck of a
Baker Engine he’s the same guy – though instead of preaching or
lecturing, he’s jerking the quadrant and throttle.

For counterpart Erna, whenever hubby Frank isn’t always
‘Wright’, there’s that ever-present feminine talent at
keeping things lively whenever Iron Man’s spirits ebb at low
tide. Or if and when the occasion at any threshermen’s reunion
calls for the unusual, spouse Erna is there with the props. Like
the time she suddenly got the urge to ride on the neck of the huge
dinosaur at the Sinclair exhibit at the Oldtime Thresherman’s
Fort Wayne Reunion – and did. How she got up there, nobody knows.
And how she got down, well that’s history too. But everybody
had fun –which is just what Jim Whitby and his reunion men

I’ve often wondered just how ‘Romeo’ Frank met and
wooed ‘Juliet’ Erna. Was it on the vibrating deck of some
old Baker Engine that these twain might have decided to become

When World War One came on, they changed alot of names because
they were too much German – so Krupp became Marlin – a little town
on the Graet Northern Railway. Nice Steam Engine were to the scrap
pile by World War Two. This picture was given to my by Rex Weiler
of Millwood, Washington. His father was the separator man in this
picture Rex is my wife’s uncle. How many autos can you see? Ha!
This was a threshing outfit of Rails and Roth, Krupp, Washington –
September 19, 1911.

No. As Erna tell it, ‘Frank was moonlighting, grinding auto
parts at a nearby shop, and we’d happen to eat in the same
place, eventually at the same table.’

Oh now I get it – and dear reader alme to digress in word and
rhyme sufficient to tell the rest of the tale as it must’ve

‘Twas in a restaurant where they met, Romeo and Juliet.

But he had no cash to pay the debt, So Rome-e-owed what

Or could it be that Juliet paid for what she ‘et’ —
working as she did for years as waitress and cashier in a

And with Iron Man, Frank Wright, working up such appetites over
the years as an employee in the tool department of the Oldsmobile
Division of General Motors, maybe all he could pay for were his own
meals without owing for what his ‘Julie et.’

At any rate the expert cook and mechanic made it to the altar –
and where one goes on that vibrating Baker deck, goeth the other,
making every threshermen’s reunion a better place for the human

But the only remianing problem yet to be worked out for the
Frank Wrights is that they have no place to store their beloved
Baker Engine.

‘We have to keep our engine out in some farmer friend’s
barn,’ says ‘Juliet’ Erna.

‘But we’re working and planning to someday have our own
several acres in the country where we can have all our fun nearby
— our Baker engine and water wagon and all the wonderful things
that remind us of when we were kids, ran engines and pitched grain
back on Dad’s farm,’ is the ‘Romeo’ Frank puts

To the wonderful Iron Man and Iron Missus, Frank and Erna Wright
we dedicate this particular niche in The Iron Man of the Month Hall
of Fame.

‘Keep the fun-fires burning, Erna,’ says I.

‘I’ll do that and without your preachin’,’ says

‘And you, Frank, keep the steam up and belt tight on the
Baker,’ plied I.

Yes, Dear — er I mean Joe,’ quoth Frank, chewing his cigar
in obeisance.

And with that I couldn’t disagree — for two
‘Wrights’ can do no wrong.

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment