Union city, Indiana.
The tiny, green-boilered Case Engine chuffs to a stop, bringing
its ‘train’ of coaster wagons and assorted odd-lot of farm
rigging to a grinding halt.
‘Now ladies ‘n gentlemen we have
here…………….’, booms out the giant voice from the
parade microphone at the N.T.A. Sunday grandstand parade. ‘And
now do you have a whistle?’
A slight duchy figure with nearsighted glasses and sauerkraut
moustache pauses to light his corncob pipe, then wipes his greasy
paws on overalls and reaches for the whistle cord to give two
mighty yanks to the grandstand crowds while a giant German Shepherd
pants approval from the fireman’s seat.
A jerk on the tiny throttle sends the whole kit and caboodle on
its way and the big parade grinds on.
It was none other than ‘Kilowat’ Cecil Klopfer and his
‘fireman’ Queenie heading their strange menagerie of farm
rigging a fitting replacement to the once-famous brothers Bloom the
late Clint and Furman who always lent a generous flavoring of Rube
Goldberg slap-stick to the big National Threshermen’s afternoon
Queenie’s really the engineer-I only go along for the
ride,’ yelled Klopfer between pipe puffs and engine exhausts
when I rushed forward for a box camera snapshot and one-minute
Then on he and Queenie thundered under full throttle losing the
entire ‘Blumen’ contraption in a halo of steam and
According to Klopfer the little engine that heads his ‘Rube
Goldberg Express’ is actually a one-third scale model of a 50
‘Me, my wife and Russ Slosser all worked together re-fluing,
re-piping and rebuilding the entire engine,’ says Klopfer in
his best amateur radio broadcast announcer’s voice which
resembles a perfect blend of Morse Code staccato and ham jargon.
‘Altogether we spent upwards of 900 hours doing the
refurbishing job. Next winter we still have more work of repairing
linkage and connecting-rod bearings.’
Klopfer, who has been working with steam since the age of ten,
and Queenie, his German Shepher mascot, weaned from her
mother’s milk via the sweet lullabies of steam engine whistles,
make up about the most inscrutable pair of ‘engine folk’ in
the history of steam engine threshing. Engineer Klopfer simply
cannot run the engine without ‘fireman’ Queenie. because
fireman ‘Queenie’ is always ‘firstest’ on the deck
of the engine. And before the engine moves, these twain must always
meet may that accursed time never arrive when these twain shall
I always contend that Cecil Klopfer. versatile as he is, must
have at least three kinds of speaking voice. When he’s steam
engineer at his daily job of firing the big boilers at the 500-bed
Toledo Hospital he must of course speak quietly and subdued for
benefit of the sick and the ailing. When broadcasting over his
amateur radio band his voice takes on the stentorian tones of legal
and technical jargon. But when he’s at the threshing reunions,
with hair down he can yell, ‘Hi-ya old buddy,’ as loud as
the rest of ’em.
And whenever Klopfer takes his family to the big steam engine
reunions it’s always in the strictest tradition of early
Americana. Pitching his tent, bright and early, and partaking a big
breakfast of his good woman’s best cooking, Klopfer emerges
from his ‘general’s field tent’ like a lord of his
castle, to feed and fondle his bevy of baying hounds and puppies
prior to hitting for the infield with Queenie to fire up his
third-size Case special.
Then, hooking on his coaster wagons, the little ‘Baker
Fan’ which he rescued from the hospital attic with the help of
a fellow-engineer, and a couple of extra trailers, Cecil and
Queenie are soon chuffing around over the infield and up and down
the fairground raceway yelling, barking, waving and panting at
their many friends.
It’s all a fitting replacement to the big 21-75 Baker which
Klopfer and his collie dog used to ride over the National
Threshermen’s parade grounds in years gone by. But now that the
little third-size Case has proved so good on the belt, Klopfer and
Queenie just buzz their own wood back home without having to fire
up their 5×7 upright boiler to get the job done.
Whoever is naive enough to shout from pulpits about golden-paved
streets for departed souls and dog heavens for respiring canines
just hasn’t seen Cecil and Queenie chuffing in parade form down
the National Threshermen’s raceway. And if preacher-editor
Elmer has ever been guilty of such theological diatribes against
the dignity of man and dog, this warning is for ye editor,
You are fulfilling a much-needed mission, Cecil and Queenie
filling the honorable boots of the departed Bloom brothers.