Iron Man Of The Month

| May/June 1969


When the National Threshers Association convenes for its Silver Anniversary this year at Wauseon, Ohio, June 26th through the 29th an eighty year old engineer-farmer, whose name resounds from coast to coast as founder of the revival of steam engine threshing throughout the nation, will for the last time be wielding the presidential gavel.

For LeRoy W. Blaker it will be the culmination of a life-long dream far beyond the wildest imaginations of a small Nebraska farm lad whose earliest impressions of a growing America were sparked by the Westward-Ho of covered wagons across the wind-swept plains back in the !80's.

And then came the threshing machine wending its way slowly like a juggernaut over the dusty, deep-rutted wagon trails, thence up the long, winding lane to the bleak Nebraska homestead, come harvest time to separate the chaff from the golden grain. Sneaking a ride on the feed-table, whenever possible, the little lad, LeRoy, watched wide-eyed in wonderment, the smoke-belching iron monster hissing steam and blowing its whistle as if bragging that is was indeed the most powerful thing on the broad, western plains. And the man who was running it certainly he was the most powerful, most envied man in all the world!

It was with the first few pennies he earned, helping the threshers in his tender years, that young LeRoy Blaker sent for a much-coveted copy of 'The Young Engineer's Guide', in order to learn the secrets that made steam run an engine as if by magic. But the text was too complicated for so young an engineer to comprehend and LeRoy laid the book aside in utter despair.

Conjuring up a more youthful approach to his dilemma, young LeRoy's busy imagination ferreted out an old empty one-gallon tin can from the family cast-offs which he envisioned might well serve as a boiler. To this he fastened an old faucet which a school chum had swapped him and an empty rifle cartridge which he used as a whistle. Fashioning a simple crank-shaft from the treadle of an old foot-powered sewing-machine, and a cylinder from a tin can, LeRoy was soon engineer of his first steam engine, using his mother's cook stove as firebox and an improvised old nail-keg as separator.