He was a Spark Plug of the Month without peer, and yet his first love was steam. You could tell it, like when he treated the folks at the Darke County Steam Threshers to a new kind of 'tug of 'War', between the little Case steam engine model he'd made years before, and the larger gas tractor with which he'd won so many tractor-pulls and trophies. Ralph Ary thought it was just another way to demonstrate the power of steam, whatever the size package it came in and he always chuckled that the bigger garden tractor he'd made and belted with step-down pulleys that out-pulled many another its size at the contests could be stalled by the much smaller model of a Case traction engine.
'Once that little Case Engine digs a rut, the larger tractor is helpless,' explained Ralph with a chuckle. 'You'd think the larger tractor would out-pull it, but the little engine will stall it every time. '
The crowds had converged so close, watching Ralph Ary's grandson, Kim Beesecker, throttle Grandpa's little 'Mighty Case' which had spun its drivers into ruts from which son, Gene Ary, couldn't dislodge them with the hefty garden tractor, that it was simply impossible to get in there with my camera to get a picture.
But there they were the crowds cheering the mighty little steam Case versus the larger tractor towering over it, and being stalled despite the many trophies it had won at the tractor-pulling contests. But it was the way Spark Plug-Iron Man Ralph Ary liked it.
'Shoot I like to see that little steam engine stall that bigger tractor, even if I did make them both,' confided
Ralph in a low voice with a sly grin. 'After all steam's my favorite, much as I like the gas tractors too.'
It was all just a part of Ralph Ary's big contribution to whatever steam threshing-gas tractor reunion he happened to be attending in western Ohio or eastern Indiana. Whether it was his little model Case steam engine, belted to the miniature sawmill he'd modeled to such precision, the gas tractor pulls with his larger red tractor finishing at the top or near-top, or his beautiful third-size model of a Rumely
Oil-Pull Iron Man Ralph Ary was the workshop genius who stood quietly in the background at the reunions and let his engines get all the glory.
And that's just what makes the writing of this story a bit difficult, now that the news of Ralph's passing has just reached us. For it is the purpose of these stories to praise the man behind the engine as mightily as we do the engine he's labored so long to build and takes of his time and effort to run that folks who gather at the reunions might have the unusual and novel kind of
Entertainment that Iron Man Ralph Ary contrived to provide.
'I remember when Ralph Ary made that little Case Engine, down in his workshop around the corner to the left from the town pump in the little village of Ithaca, Ohio,' said 'Two-ton Tony' Pauline, and Iron Man of the Month in his own right. 'Ralph was the best when it came to making anything. And, as a welder, he was tops. Why he could just write your name as pretty as you please with a welding torch on an iron plate if you'd have asked him to just to show you.'
Ill never forget the time I stepped into the Clyde Ross welding shop, down the street from where I live and there was Ralph Ary standing there, welding the cast-iron bridge of an old upright piano of all things. For Ralph was a master welder could weld up even an aluminum wedding ring, if you couldn't afford a gold one, and then go on to tackle the largest steam boiler if the day's work had called for it. And there was the time that Ralph made up a special welding job of a hand-operated corn cultivator for the mighty Joe Dear. Furnished only the barest pencil scratching I'd given him as 'plans', he said to come back in a day or so which I did, and there it was, all painted up and ready to go. That was Ralph Ary. You left him your plans and orders and sort of told him how you wanted it and like the faith of a prayer answered, when you went to get it, it was better than you had originally sketched it.
For years, the miniature sawmill belted to the little Case Engine was one of the main attractions around the Darke County Thresher's Reunion grounds, east of Greenville, Ohio. It was always a heart-warming experience to watch the warm relationship of Grandpa Ralph Ary standing in the background while grandson, Kim Bee-secker 'oiled around' then strode to his little seat on the tiny engine deck to place his grimy, boyish hand upon the miniature throttle. Then it was that Grandpa Ralph would bend low over the diminutive sawmill and begin feeding small slabs of fresh-sawn lumber into the whirling saw teeth, making the little Case bark its stack in defiance at the opposite end of the straining belt. Little boyish hands contrasted with the knurled, horny knuckles of older hands all reaching with delight to get the thin fresh strips which Grandpa Ary always jokingly called 'toothpicks'. And there were the many times when Ralph Ary's tiny steam-operated sawmill furnished just the right size sticks that happened to be needed for some kind of a project or job a-building elsewhere on the reunion grounds. For Iron Man Ralph Ary was always ready to lend a hand, from the most menial task that was asked, to that of the more grandiose preoccupations of proudly showing the works of genius that came out the doors of his little village shop.
They always arrived early, before the big show got started grandpa and grandson, Ralph and Kim, the family trailer heavily-laden with their sawmill and steam engine gearing. Methodically they unloaded, piece by piece, rig by rig engine, sawmill, wrenches, oil cans, gas cans, water wagon, tractor and all. Then a second trip was in order, for to fetch the larger model of the Rumely Oil-Pull, latest to emerge from the Ary workshop doors. Soon the sawmill was in place, the Case belted up and fire wafting dreamily from the tiny smoke stack, ready to run a few test strips through the whirring blade just in time for Sylvester Ditmer to set off the aerial rocket that announced the start of the big Darke County Threshers Reunion. The little red tractor would be already chugging furiously, bringing up fresh supplies of slab wood for the hungry little sawmill, while in the background, somewhere, could be heard the heavier booming of the Rumely Oil-Pull model. You could always count on three crowds congregated somewhere on the Darke County Reunion grounds and all three were watching bug-eyed at either Grandpa Ralph Ary or Grandson Kim Beesecker either running or directing the operations thereof.
And, if three crowds weren't sufficient evidence of the Ralph Ary genius being displayed on the reunion grounds, there could well be a fourth crowd gathered around another of the Ralph Ary Rube-Goldbergian dreams that had come into reality in the shops of this Iron-Man genius. For somewhere on the grounds could be seen 'Hizzoner' Clark Davidson, the major of Gordon Village, Ohio, who was quietly chuffing around seated on the rear of a contraption known as the 'Comet Doodlebug'.
The nameplate on the rear of the Davidson 'Doodlebug' reads, 'The A. & D. Company' - meaning the Ary and Davidson Company. For, indeed, it was a contraption and a beautiful one at that, born of the merging of two Iron-Men's dreams into one magnificent and sublime 'whatcha-callit' machine. Incorporating an upright boiler, and old steam engine once manufactured in Greenville, Ohio, a comfortable seat and overhead roof sunshade, numerous steam gages, gadgets and throttles and knobs, as well as even a steam locomotive bell the 'thing' would not plow or do a hitch of towing or work of any kind, but it was mighty comfy for 'Hizzoner' the mayor, to merely ride around over the grounds and 'inspect' all the proceedings and operations. (We might indulge here a bit and think that even Uncle Elmer would delight in riding rough-sod over the reunion grounds on such a sophisticated conglomeration of gears and reciprocating parts all designed just to locomotive a man's rear-end from one place to another.) But there it always is at the Darke County Reunion and we must always stop and look with envy at the man who owns it as well as at the genius, Ralph Ary, who made it.
For Iron-Man Ralph Ary, who cannot read this, we doff our engineers' caps in silent memory of his genius. His
Tireless efforts well never forget, expended always as they were to make the reunions a bit different and unusual. For preserving an era of our great historical-agricultural past, we eternally are grateful. Well miss you, Ralph, coming early and setting up 'neath the big, spreading shade tree. And, worst of all, I'll miss running over to borrow your big, long-spouted oil can or the key to the big gas tank to keep the faltering Joe Dear a-running.
There are some people, even among engineers and mechanical geniuses, who are so far above the mere wrenches and tools they hold in their hands that we call them gentlemen, kindly, considerate, always ready to help and how we so often hope they could live forever. But Someone greater than us has destined man's beginnings and his endings. And so, the most we can do is to remember and not forget.
Iron-Man, Ralph Ary things will be different but well always remember, when Kim runs the little Case belted to the tiny sawmill, and we hear the red tractor a-growling, and the Rumely a-chugging its defiance, as a sort of unspoken eulogy to your genius.
Ill leave it to Uncle Elmer to say a mighty 'Aaaa-men.'