Iron Man Of The Month

By Staff
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Abe Johnson, King of Cases, tries his hand at throttling steam locomotives on my HO pike.
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Iron-Man Abe Johnson of Marion, N. Y., ready to shove off to meet other friends in Buckeye Land and Michigan. Shown here fondling his special Case watch fob. Uncle Abe also keeps a wary eye on that empty hogshead of Ed Troutman's, which he has been ordere
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Iron-Man Abe Johnson cracks the throttle on Ed Troutman's 50-horse Case Engine at the Darke County Threshers, Greenville, Ohio, last summer. All Case Engines are perfect like people to Father Abram. That's ''Uncle'' Ed Troutman of Brookville, Ohio, stan

‘Uncle Joe!’ he said, when I finally got the front door
unstuck, unlatched and opened and he stood towering over me like a
Paul Bunyan, eyeing me from beneath that woodsman’s fur-lined

Suddenly my brain re-coiled, realizing as I did that it was none
other than Abe Johnson (Father Abram) from up New York State who is
so much in love with the human race that he calls every man
‘Uncle’ and every woman ‘Sweetheart,’ (excluding
his wife, of course).

‘I just couldn’t stand it being shut up any longer and
with spring busting out all over I told my wife I just had to make
a sortie out through the midwest and see some of my
Pennsylvania-Buckeye friends,’ said Abe, extending his burly
paw for a lengthy handshake. ‘So I up and kissed the good wife,
hopped into my puddle hopper and headed out just to tell everyone
of these kind hearts and gentle people that of Abe still loves

‘I stopped by Uncle Elmer’s at Enola, Pa., and found him
looking better than he did last summer raring to go to the summer
reunions,’ snapped Father Abram in his best Holland-Dutch
brogue. ‘Came on out into Ohio saw the Milt Deetses, Milt and
Sarah who I call the ‘Corn-husker Buckeyes’, then dropped
by Uncle Homer Holp’s and Uncle Arthur Bowman’s, visited a
spell with my friend Ed Troutman at Brookville, and thought I
couldn’t pass through without visiting Uncle Joe. Next I’ll
go on out and see Uncle Roscoe Shiver-decker Shivvie’s the best
guy and he’ll make me stay overnight. I can just hear what
he’ll say ’cause he’ll be so surprised to see old Abe
standin’ at his door.

‘After I leave Shivvie’s, I’ll go on up through
Kettlersville and say ‘Hello’ to Uncle Red Fishbach and
look over his museum, then I’ll go by Uncle Elmer Egbert’s
to visit with his family. I was so sorry I didn’t get out to
Uncle Elmer’s funeral, and will want to give my sympathy to
Mrs. Egbert, another ‘sweetheart’ of mine the dearest lady
who I know is so sad and misses Uncle Elmer as much as I do then I
want to console Jack and Frances who live just across from Uncle
Elmer’s on Amsterdam Road where we always held the Buckeye
Threshers each fall and I ran Uncle Elmer’s big Case
Engine,’ rambled my Dutch friend Abe as he plotted his
friend-visiting course over a ham sandwich and cup of coffee at my
table that spring day. ‘After I leave Uncle Elmer Egbert’s
place, I’ll head north to see my Michigan sweethearts, Uncle
Percy Sherman and Mae Phipps. And, oh yes, if I only had the time,
I’d like to drop by the Blakers but I don’t think I can
make them all.’

‘Father’ Abram Johnson is the kind of guy that sort of
gets under your skin. You couldn’t hate him even if you tried
not even if he was a Democrat and you a Republican, or vice-versa
he’s so warmly human and so universally in love with that
family of vertebrates known as the human race. I firmly believe
that, if he were even to fall victim to cannibals on African safari
and about to be boiled in oil for dinner, he’d rise right up
out of the steaming pot and say one last word to the head cook
‘Uncle I love you.’

According to Uncle Abe (gee, he’s got me to calling him
Uncle, too) there’s nothing, absolutely nothing in this world
that deserves as much love as a Case steam engine, unless of course
it’s his good wife, Mary, and the rest of the kind hearts and
gentle people that make up his ‘love people world.’ Mention
any date or year of any event in Abe’s life, and he associates
it in his mind with some development or evolution in the
manufacture of Case engines.

‘I was born in 1916 that was the year the Case engine
manufacturers changed over from lap-seam boilers to butt-strap
boilers,’ reminisces Abe. ‘That was the same year most
manufacturers made the switch to the butt-strap boilers, so you see
it’s always easy for me to recall things that have happened in
my life, so long as I can equate them with changes that were being
made in the Case engines.’

When asked to equate another year, suggesting 1912 at random,
Father A bram rolled these pertinent facts off the tip of his
Holland-Dutch tongue, ‘That was the year the Case Company made
the largest number of engines. It was the best year for Case and
the human race.’

Resting up a few hours before shoving off for the Shiwies and
Egberts, Iron Man Abe tamped the smoking in the bowl of his
lilliputian corn-cob pipe and puffed the dying embers of his
special mixture of Sir Walter and Bond Street back to a ruddy glow.
‘Here try some of this,’ he chuckled ‘The coarse Bond
Street with the finer Sir Walter helps the draught like in an
engine firebox, it’s easier to keep the fire up with a few big
lumps tossed in with the finer coal.’

Blowing smoke-rings out his ‘stack,’ like a 40-horse
Case, Abe Johnson relaxed a bit while pulling throttle and
switch-levers on my little HO model railroad running models of
old-time NYC and PRR steam locomotives over an intricate 14-degree
four-way crossover of the New York Central-Pennsylvania Railroads,
modeled after the complex rail operations of my hometown, Union
City, Indiana. Out-smoking the locomotives themselves, there he sat
Iron Man Abe Johnson the King of Cases, groping for that educated
feeling of Johnson-Bar-on-quadrant for a change.

It was a long, rather rambling story that kept flowing from the
loquacious Holland-Dutch lips of ye Iron Man Johnson, demanding no
respite from hastily-jotted pencil scribblings on yellow paper on
my part. There were the young years as a farm lad, hanging around
Dad’s big steam engine whenever there was threshing to be done.
Then there was the time when a certain young man, Abe Johnson, was
big enough to reach for the paternal throttle and begin running the
iron monster the years when steam really got into his veins. Later
came the tractors and combines, and Abe Johnson was known
throughout his area as one who did custom work for the farmers,
when the season for getting in the grain crops rolled ’round.
The years came and went, and Abe swapped farm work for truck work
driving on the New York highways.

‘I drove truck loads of fruit from the finest New York
orchards down into New York City,’ reminisces Abe. ‘Those
were my bachelor years. After I delivered my load, to while away
the lonesomeness, sometimes I’d see a burlesque. I’d pick
out the girl on the stage who seemed to have the nicest
personality, and at the stage door afterwards I’d offer her a
bright red apple, saying, ‘This is the finest apple from the
finest New York orchard and it’s for you’.’

‘I was surprised,’ says Abe, ‘how many seemed to
really appreciate something genuine like that as a gift from a

Later, Iron Man Abe found Mary, the woman of his choice. The
ensuing years to the present time the Johnson throttle hand has
been engaged in running heavy cranes and machinery for building
contractors in New York State. For a long time Abe Johnson had
missed the feel of a steam throttle, and it was beginning to itch
his right palm a bit for the lack of it.

‘The first steam engine reunion I ever went to was at
Montpelier, Ohio,’ recalls Abe. ‘There I saw Mac Kellar
sawing watermelons on the top of white oak logs, and no sawdust on
the melons and I got to thinking ‘How’s that for
double-heading?’ Then I got around the engines and that was it.
Now, wherever I see a cloud of steam and smoke hovering near the
earth somewhere, I can’t resist running over to get a whiff of

‘The Lord must have had a sense of humor, making all these
steam engine guys and like the engines not a bad one in the
bunch,’ chortles Iron Man Abe. ‘You know these steam engine
reunions are wonderful. Both the engines and the engineers are
getting a little older, but they’ve always got them steamed up
and they’re learning to take it a little easier and relax and
visit more. Yet, anytime I want to climb up on my Case and run
around over the grounds, it’s all steamed up and ready to go.
You remember the story in the Bible about the little boy with the
two loaves and fishes that the Lord multiplied and fed the
thousands? Well, I think even the Lord was a sort of picnicker at
heart and He’d approve of our steam engine reunions.’

‘When I attend the Williams Grove Reunion, I always feel
like I’m really in God’s country,’ sighed Abe with a
glint of nostalgia in his eye. ‘They always have such a good
show, and there are so many of my friends the Pennsylvania Dutch
that congregate there.’

‘A fellow should take time out to visit with friends,’
philosophizes Iron Man Johnson ‘We often wait too long. After
all, what’s there to working all one’s life without
friends? I always worked at my job, but the other fellow made the
money. It’s not how old you are but how much time you got left
that counts.’

‘Well, I’d better be shoving off in my bucket o’
bolts and heading toward the Shiverdeckers and Egberts,’ said
Iron Man Abe, heading out toward his pick-up truck where he paused
a spell to thumb through his address book of ‘dear uncles ‘
and ‘sweethearts’ the kind folks and gentle people who own
steam engines, all of whose addresses, phone numbers, birthdays and
wedding anniversaries he has so meticulously listed.
‘When’s your birthday, Uncle Joe?’ he asked, jotting
down the facts ‘n ‘figures’ of my life. ‘I love to
send cards to my friends. You’ll be getting one. I even send
them all Easter cards.’

‘Ed Troutman sent along this barrel,’ mused Abe,
pointing to a brand new empty hogshead with shiny brass hoops,
lolling in the bed of his truck. ‘Ed wanted me to take it back
and fill it with my special New York brand of cider which I like to
bring along to some of the shows. No cider like my special cider
does a lot for friendships on a hot, dry reunion day.’

‘Come visit us, anytime, Uncle Joe,’ he said as he
started his engine and grasped my hand. ‘Every steam engine man
is welcome to come up to my place at Marion, New York, without
asking and stay as long as he likes. ‘Well treat you royal and
my wife’s the most wonderful hostess the Lord ever made,’
he yelled, waving a lengthy goodbye.

And thank you Iron Man Abe Johnson Father Abram Uncle Abe for
keeping the steam up in the mighty Case, as well as the fires of
friendship kindled under that rarest of old-time American customs
neighborliness. May everyone be your uncle and your sweetheart.

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