UNION CITY, INDIANA.
Though Wickey may sometimes act
In running an engine he's nobody's
First married an engine, then later a
Became engineer of both, for life.
Then there's Charlie, a figure quite
Who can hot-rod a Baker, by gum;
Drags long on his fags, drools deep,
Makes OP Abner bark at the steam-ups.
Sometimes 'ye Iron Men' are an inseparable lot, 'tending the reunions in pairs, the twain of which ne'er do part. And sometimes these brotherly pairs, though tied together with some kind of ethereal binder's twine, both invisible yet unbreakable, exhibit personalities as opposite and diverse as the poles of our globe.
Were it left to a psychiatrist, peering down from his ivory tower to make the decision, I'm afraid he would deem it his august judgment to prescribe that the sunny-dis-positioned, easy-going Wickey Jones be placed in a separate pen from the more introspective, quite brooding type that makes up the personality of one Charlie Barker, declaring that while both boys may well have come from the same state of Kentucky, one must have been born on one side of the hill and the other the direct opposite. But of course the vaunted psychiatrist might well have never heard of such a thing as a steam threshermen's reunion, or that the vibrating deck of a reciprocating steam engine can, and often has become the mystical sort of 'democratic platform' that somehow melts down diverse temperaments into a common denominator of work and brotherhood. One need not be a psychiatrist (although he might well wind up being one) to place his stamp of blessing and approval on the utter felicity and harmony that seems to eternally exist between 'Sunny Wicky' and 'Cheery Charlie' whenever the two of them get together to yank throttle and steer furrows, a show guaranteed to make any engine stack bark defiance to the throng that's watching. And it doesn't matter how tough or dry the ground or how many plows are digging their furrows to make the old stack coughlike a performing band during college football half-time, off go their caps, waving wildly in perfect unison, urging 'Old Smokey' to keep on going. One wonders just how much additional horsepower the waving caps of Wickey and Charlie contribute to an engine in laborbut somehow it lends sufficient therapeutic value as to always rescue them and their rig from stalling, to the point that should interest any qualified psychiatrist preoccupied with the vicissitudes of human nature.
One of the highlights of the Fort Wayne, Indiana Old Time Threshers & Saw millers Show is to see Charlie Barker and Wickey Jones wave their caps, urging the engine on when the plowing gets tough. Different personalities in every degree, though one lives on one side of Boone 'Crick' the other on the opposite bank, Sober Charlie and Wacky Wickey always arrive at the same show in different cars, whoop it up, give everyone a good-time Charlie show and really know how to run an engine together. 1. to r. a young friend, Sober Charlie Barker and Wackey Jones.
But what might illustrate most vividly to any psychiatrist the errors of his foibles is that, despite their differences in egos, wherever Wickey Jones goes, there goes Charlie Barker, too. And wherever Charlie Barker goes, Wickey Jones is sure to meander, even when they're not astride the deck of an engine. Oh they may strike out in separate cars, Charlie driving his Model-A and Wickey his family jalopy but they inevitably wind up together whether at the same reunion, the same tavern, or the same road that winds back home to the same neighborhood nestled deep among the same Kentucky hills.
For 'Wickey'. formally christened William M. Jones III, home is Route 7 along Jones Nursery Road, 'two whoops 'n a holler' from Willowby-Town, near Lexington, Kentucky. For 'Charlie', christened Charles Gantry Barker, home is Route 7, Cleveland Road, near Lexington, Kentucky (just a quarter-mile from 'Heaven', Ky.) For Wickey, home is two miles this side of Boone 'Crick', for Charlie it's two miles on the other side of Boone 'Crick'. (Opposites any way you look at 'em!)
Going home for 'Wickey' Jones means steering past the old historic graveyard atop the hill, where Kentucky's first lieutenant-governor lies buried, to one of the oldest brick houses west of the Allegheny Mountains, once the homestead of the Lieutenant Governor and for years occupied by the prominent family of Joneses.
Going home for Charlie Barker means returning to the land once occupied by Daniel Boone Charlie being a descendant of one of Daniel's brothers. And not too far distant down the winding valley can be seen the initials of Boone, his famous forebear, carved in the bark of an ancient sycamore tree.
Living alone with his mother, Charlie Barker has a passion for old machinery, especially steam threshing engines, and, of all things, mules.
It's always a rare and humorous sight, seeing these two, Sober Charley and Wacky Wickey, team up on an engine deck.
To see them separately, one would think they'd never team up. But the deck of a vibrating engine, brings teamwork out of men.
'Charlie once owned a two-horse wagon to which he used to hitch a pair of mules,' explained Mrs. Wickey Jones (Barbara). 'It was really a sight to see young Charlie driving a-long slowly across the fields over to our place to watch the threshing, lolling in an old rocking chair he had placed in the wagon.'
'Charlie finally bought himself a 23-90 Baker Engine, to take the place of the one his father once owned,' says Mrs. Jones. (The now-famous Barker's Barking Baker Engine we've recorded on sawmill and plowing of late, eh, Charlie?)
'As to my husband. Wickey, it wasn't always that steam engines were allowed on the place, years ago,' points out Mrs. Jones. 'Great Grand father Jones, once declared that 'No damn steam engine would ever blow a whistle on my farm. Then damn if one of my sons didn't come home with one.' '
But once the steam engines got a foot-hold on the Jones farm, they kept right on coming, increasing over the years.
William M. Jones II (Wickey's father) was indeed a real southern gentleman, well-versed in the knowledge, love and lore of the steam threshing engine. And Mrs. William Jones II, (Wickey's mother) was just as lovely a southern lady, adept at preparing such luscious dishes as Kentucky 'beetin' biscuits' and other southern delicacies. Such was the well-laden festive board that graced the fares of numerous threshing dinners at the Jones household. And over the years, with the latch-string always out and the Jones hospitality ever in the strictest tradition of Old Kentucky, succeeding generations of visiting threshermen to the Jones homestead have always been most warmly received, entertained and boarded.
'These Joneses never did know a stranger,' pines Mrs. Jones, no stranger herself to the housework and cooking, attendant to entertaining the old-fashioned Kentucky way.
'Wickey talks like a hillbilly grew up in the fields around the farm hands, says 'poke' for pork and all that,' laughs Mrs. Jones. 'These Toneses have wheels in their heads. I do declare they like engines as well as people.'
'Wickey never was married till he was twenty-seven,' says she. 'The neighbors always kidded him about getting married, but he always said that no woman was as pretty or smelled as good as a steam engine, although they both got their place.'
'It was always his ambition to someday run a steam engine right down the main street of Winchester, Kentucky. But the town fathers didn't want the lugs rumbling over the village street, so Wickey got some belting from an old stone quarry machine and put 'overshoes' on the wheels,' explains Mrs. Jones. 'They stayed on the wheels till the parade was over, then flopped off. But Wickey was satisfied because he had scared every little kid in town by blowing his whistle.'
'Charlie Barker is the kind that never has much to say just sits and thinks', says Barbara Jones. 'But, later on he usually has his piece to speak after the other person is through talking.'
'But, oh my, whenever Wickey and Charlie are together, all they talk about is machinery,' quoth Mrs. Jones. 'Mostly they use their engines now to fill silos and steam tobacco.'
Over the years, however, Wickey and his father the late William Jones II, worked over at least eleven steam threshing engines, putting them in top performance and finishing them off in the best spit 'n polish. At present Wickey owns two 22-65 horsepower Case engines, one 20-60 Advance Rumely, a 1918 vintage 32-54 inch Case Separator and an 1892 33-56 inch Huber hand-feed and web-stacker separator with original paint which has never been wet.
Wickey Jones, teller of tall hillbilly tales, does however have a proverbial 'thorn in the flesh' near where he resides.
'Down in the valley from where we live is an old cave,' says Mrs. Jones. 'It has a sort of natural beauty but is a nuisance, too. Squatters are usually holding out in it. But neighbors always accuse Wickey of hiding his still there from the 'revenuers'.'
Our thank to you, 'Wacky Wickey' and 'Sober Charlie' for working together so well to entertain us, despite your opposite personalities and egos. For running those engines so well at sawmill, fan, brake or plow to keep the big shows going despite the fact that when you're not running an engine one might think you couldn't care less. For that unmatchable Kentucky wit, that musical southern drawl those wild, wild tales from Dan'l Boone country and that south-of-the border hospitality thank you and thank you again.
We're always happy to see you together at every Midwestern thresher-men's reunion and are always thankful to learn you've returned home safe and sound whether it be 'two hoots 'n a holler' the other side o' Boone 'Crick' or just a quarter -mile this side o' Heaven.
Welcome to your double-niche as Iron Men of the Month in Ye Iron Man Hall O' Fame. May Wickey be never so wacky, or Charlie so cheery that the twain of them slop their soda pop over into the boiler.
To Wickey's wackey ways and Barker's Barking Baker our hat is off.