Iron Man Of The Month

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Iron-Man Diplomacy - while the United Nations argues till its blue in the face-ol' Sawyer-Massey, and O. W. Nichols of R. F. D. 1, Box 12, Pickerington, Ohio make friends 'mong the human race.

I. to r: Iron-Man O. W. Nichols and his Sassy Lady’ of
Pickerington, Ohio seals international friendships with Canadian,
Charlie Spicer of Corruna Ontario, Canada. It’s always like a
UN meeting round Sawyer-Massey at National Threshers Association
Wauseon, Ohio.

Well, it seems that Dad Nichols couldn’t somehow satisfy
sonny boy’s desire for more and more horsepower by fetching
home big enough steam traction engines. So sonny boy (O. W. Nichols
to be exact) broke with tradition and, instead of staying down on
the farm as the paternal Nichols had hoped, by baiting him with
steam engines to run, left the quaint confines of the Canadian
countryside and, like Horatio Alger, sought fortune across the
border.

‘In 1917 I came to the states and worked several years in a
garage at South Charleston, Ohio, then in a garage at Granville,
Ohio,’ recalls Iron Man Nichols.

His sortie of several years’ crack at working on old
Model-T’s in Ohio garages didn’t however produce the
‘cure’ our youthful Canadian ‘Iron Man’ might well
have experienced, had he been a less noble soul. For O. W. Nichols
it wasn’t a cry of ‘Back to the farm and Dad’s dinner
table’ for some of Mom’s cooking. Instead, wandering even
farther a field of such earth bound preoccupations as notching
quadrants and easing throttles on such things as farm traction
engines, O. W. Nichols sprouted wings.

‘In 1923, at the age of 27, I began to fly’, is the way
Iron Man Nichols explains the unusual transition from threshing
grain by steam on a Canadian farm to threshing clouds by
‘prop’ in the high blue yonder. ‘I piled up a total of
650 hours of soloing in an old Curtiss Jenny OX-5 powered by a 90
horsepower water-cooled engine.’

‘There were no regulations in those days,’ muses Nichols
with usual sly grin letting you know, by innuendo, that many a
telegraph wire, tree limb and fence row owed its continued
existence to his split-second, hairbreadth throttle-arm gleaned in
those tender years atop the throbbing deck of Dad s old steamer.
‘Later when I applied for a transport pilot s license number
3255. There weren’t many transport pilots in the country
then.’

‘We did lots of barnstorming in those days. Soon I advanced
from the old Curtiss Jenny to a Travel Air powered by a Wright
Whirlwind engine,’ says Iron Man (with wings) O. W. Nichols.
‘In a couple of years I had a Tri-Motored Stinson powered by
three 215 horse-power Licoming engines.’

‘Then I bought a tri-motored Ford and went in strictly for
barnstorming from 1936 to 1943, based at Columbus, Ohio. We
barnstormed all over the country, taking passengers from town to
town,’ confides Iron Man Nichols. ‘Then Uncle Sam stepped
in and took our Planes for the war effort’.

For fifty years (that’s half a century) I was completely
without steam. Never even gave it a thought,’ laughs O. W. Then
one day about 1960, I went to a threshermen’s reunion at
Mechanicsburg Ohio, and smelled steam and smoke once again,’
explained Nichols, casting a glance at the smoking stack of old
‘Sassy Lady ‘like the proverbial prodigal son who had just
returned to his Father’s abode.

The week following, the ‘prodigal’ aviator, his
wing-feathers singed by steam forever, returned to the Canadian
countryside of his youth – in quest of buying a Canadian-made
engine.

‘I remembered my experience with Canadian engines, and tried
to find one for sale, but didn’t succeed,’ minds Iron Man
Nichols. ‘While there someone mentioned that Dan Heidle back in
the states had a George White for sale and I returned by way of
Sandusky and bought it.’ (I have a good recording of that
George White, O. W. You blew the whistle three times, and the
hospital across the way called us down for it.)

‘After owning and operating it for several years, I was able
to acquire the Sassy Lady – er I mean this Sawyer-Massey from a
cousin, J. W. Nichols of Woodstock, Ontario, Canada, manager of the
new Woodstock Inn there,’ points out Iron Man O. W. ‘Guess
she’ll be my girl from here on out.

‘Oh yes, I’ve still got my transport pilot’s
licence,’ mused Iron Man Nichols, whipping out a faded card
stamped with the low figure of 3255. ‘But steam is better than
flying for my book.’

‘What’s that? Which is safer – running a steam engine or
flying barnstorm over fence rows and through trees?’ echoed
Iron Man Nichols to my question. ‘Well, now that is the $64,000
question, and I don’t like to answer it. Let’s say it this
way – flying’s for a young man -steam’s for an old
man.’

Thank you, Iron Man, ‘Diplomat’ 0. W. Nichols, for
coming back to steam after half-a-century of barnstorming up
yonder. You ve just told us what we’ve known all along – that
steam’s better than airplanes, anyway you look at it, either up
or down.

Hang onto that pilot s license, if for nothing more to give
ol’ Fidel the jitters that even steam threshermen can fly. But
we hope you stay with your first love ol’ ‘Sassy Lady’
whose boiler and piston have outlasted a thousand of Castro’s
paper planes.

United Nations take note! While you argue till you’re blue
in the face, Sawyer-Massey makes friends ‘mong the human
race.

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