UNION CITY, INDIANA.
Should any soul be ever so jaded as to conceive the notion that horsin' around with Iron Horses is strictly for the menfolk and the birds - and never the women - a casual sortie of the reunion grounds at the Darke County Steam Threshers might well dispel such delusion. For here indeed the pleated skirt and feminine hand waxes yet its fiercest competition to the oily, smoke besmirched bib and iron fist at yanking throttles, quadrants and whistle cords, world without end -- Amen.
There's Mildred Ary who, year after year, has been thrilling the throngs by coaxing the ancient Ary Gaar-Scott into just the right notch that sends it lunging forward then backward on the Darke County Threshers' tottering teeter till it comes to rest on just the right sopt to balance the teeter-totter - all while hubby Harold, who never could balance an engine, swallows his cud in masculine obeisance. All of which, once the smoke screen abates from the engine stack, reveals but one more step toward woman's eventual Dominion over earth and all its creatures, including man.
Too, there are the perennial man-and-wife Wrights -- the well-known Frank and Erna Baker-ites who daily promenade the reunion grounds draped, one aloft the coal bunder, t' other astride the water tank. With them it's a mutual obligation keeping Ol' Abner in reciprocation.
And not to be overlooked in our documentary on womenfolk versus men when it comes to cutting capers on a steam engine (heretofore a man's world) we have the comely wife of ex-President of the Darke County Threshers, Thelma Ditmer, who dutifully succumbs to being tied onto the huge drive wheel of the family's 23-90 Baker for a 'revolutionary' ride with hubby at the throttle. For Sylvester, keeping the wife tied down and at his mercy is at best but short-lived and sham. For Thelma, revolving 'round on that engine wheel is but one more revolution in the evolution of woman's rise to dominance and power.
And in the realm of tales yet untold of woman reaching for power in a man's world, there lies yet another story of a lovely lady who, though not quite the master of the family engine her hubby is, seems to be vying for equality that someday may usurp his supreme authority on the swaying engine deck.
'Oh yes, I like to run our Case Engine very much, ' smiles Mrs. Tribbey, 'But I prefer to have Roy with me in the cab when I am doing so.'
For Margaret Tribbey, operator at the Xenia, Ohio, exchange of the Ohio Bell Telephone Company for thirty-five years, reaching for the throttle of the mighty 50-horse Tribbey Case Engine is not yet the act of complete feminine dominance over her Iron Man husband as might appear with other women riding the cabs with their respective engine spouses over the Darke County reunion grounds. For her the mere act of riding engine cab with Iron Man Roy has not yet hatched into such devious and womanly devices calling for a complete takeover of man's world of hammers, wrenches and crow-bars when it comes to man-handling the Iron Horse. For Margaret Tribbey, it sufficeth to merely occupy one side of the man's throne at the rear of an engine, possibly to jostle the throttle and quadrant now and then, but primarily to lend feminine grace and pulchritude -- a much desired refinement -- to the more ferocious and swashbuckling attack so often exhibited by a man running an engine. Could Lord Tennyson have envisioned a woman such as Margaret Tribbey running a steam-belching engine, he no doubt could have quilled it in rhyme more delicately than I have hereby striven to document it. But suffice it to say that delicacy, and what little yet remaineth in some women to allow men to think they are still functional and not completely replaced, is a refinement still to be desired if old-fashioned. We might tern it 'harmony in the cab' -- definitely of a less rambunctious nature, though quite solidly as cemented as those of a more precocious kind.
For Mrs. Roy Tribbey, the thrills of going to reunions and riding engine cab with Iron Man Roy is a rare wifely privilege.
'It is the finest thing a woman can do, to tolerate her husband's hobby and to share it,' says she, in her most refined telephone operator's 'Number please' attitude
'Oh, of course, there's a little dirt that's objectionable to a woman, about an engine, but that s small compared to the fun of going along and being with your husband,' adds Margaret. 'The woman, I'd think, who really doesn't enjoy life is the one who stays at home and wonders where her husband is and what he's doing.'
As for Iron Man, Roy Tribbey, having served for over a quarter-century as supervisor of city streets in Xenis, Ohio, (for which he was awarded a fine gold watch for excellence of service) - driving his big 50-horse Case Engine willynilly over the Darke County reunion grounds without worrying about curbs, sidewalks and street surfaces to repair, is about the best vacation a man of his stature and office can indulge in.
'When I went to work on the city streets of Xenia, it was a community of only ten thousand,' says he, looking back over the years. 'In twenty-five years it's grown to incorporate twenty five to thirty-thousand people.' (And that's a lot of people to have griping to you, day and night, about what needs fixin' in your town, we betcha.)
For Iron Man, Roy Tribbey, and wife, Margaret - tossing their combined duties as street commissioner and 'hello girl' to the four winds, and shoving off for a threshermen's reunion with their mighty Case is about the most successful way to find conjugal bliss in the hectic modernity of a nerve-frazzled world. Should our modern courts of marital appeal ever visit a threshermen's reunion ground and observe what tranquility takes place, they might be able to boast lengthier lists of wrecked marriages salvaged from the divorce courts. At least they would come up with a few new, heretofore unheard of matrimonial secrets.
Says Iron Man Tribbey, 'If I sold my Case Engine, I'm afraid I'd lose Margaret. She's as fond of this engine as I am.'
In other words, Roy Tribbey loves both Margaret and the Case as much that the mere thought of bartering the one and losing the other is not to be trifled with. And, conversely, Margaret who loves both Roy and the engine, would take a mighty dim view of any such deal.
'I waited twenty-six years to get this 50-horse Case which came out of the factory in 1919,' explains Iron Man Tribbey. 'It set out at the end of a fellow's barn that long and was never moved. But I kept my eye on it till I finally was able to bid on it at an auction.'
'I've had it now about twenty-five years. We fire it up and run it in local parades and at reunions at Urbana, Mechanicsburg and Greenville (west central Ohio) every year,' says Roy. 'The threshing I've done with it has been mostly at the Darke County reunions near Greenville.'
The caboose is off the Rio Grande and 0587 is its original number. It had been badly damaged by fire and was rebuilt by members of the Society.
The final parade had just ended at the Darke County Threshers the Sunday I was talking to Iron Man Roy Tribbey and spouse Margaret. I had just finished towing a neat little upright steam engine, also belonging to Roy, through the big parade behind my mighty 'Joe Dear' one-lung Delco-powered garden tractor and parked the twain over by a shagbark hickory tree on the reunion grounds.
'Fellow by the name of Smith, who collects engines, asked me if you'd sell your little upright engine.' said I to Roy at the close of our conversation.
'No, I like it too well to sell it guess I'll keep it around for a while , with the Case,' replied our Iron Man to my query. (Fearful of losing Margaret by selling that one, too, Roy)
'He'd better not sell it,' remonstrated Margaret, bearing out my suspicions. 'If even that one goes, I go too,' paraphrasing the well-known love story Ruth in the Bible (whither Thou goest, I will go likewise).
To Iron man Roy Tribbey, his Margaret and two engines - may you keep on coming together to our midwest reunions. Our eternal thanks to all of you, the foursome, for lending us the rare insights of marital bliss that can exist betwixt man, wife and 'their' engines.
From us any further advice to an Iron Man thus happily wedded to both woman and steam engine would indeed be superfluous. Amen.