PERCY SHERMAN, CLOWNS IT UP AT DARKE COUNTY THRESHERS, WESTERN OHIO

By Staff
article image
Joe Fahnestock
Courtesy and photo by Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana Sometimes ye Iron-Man gets to tellin 'em too big, and the Keystone Kops whisk him off in their paddy-wagon to jail. But even then, Iron-Man Percy Sherman's throttle fingers fit well around those ja

And yet this horny-handed, teeth-clenching cigar-chewing Iron
Man Percy Sherman is as sensitive about his age as any spinster of
39 his eternal energy and vigor belying the 76 years he revealed to
me during an unguarded moment of secrecy and confidence.

It would require volumes of encyclopedic proportions to record
the years of experience of one Iron Man Percy Sherman the nights
he’s slept in the hay-lofts of midwest barns after rumbling his
Iron monster for miles down dark and muddy country roads with only
the flickering glimmer of the coal-oil headlight to be ready at the
crack-‘o-dawn to start the day’s threshing.

And the expert ‘maneuvering’ an old-time thresherman had
to indulge in, like a United Nations diplomat, to get out of eating
at a thresherman’s dinner where the farm wife lacked those
necessary culinary accomplishments sufficient to whet ye
thresherman’s appetite.

Like this one Perce often tells about. ‘This particular
farmer’s wife wasn’t a very good cook and I dreaded sitting
down to her table when the dinner bell rang,’ says Percy,
shifting his cigar to the side of this mouth. ‘A lady I knew
across the road just invited me to sneak over to her table to eat.
She knew I didn’t relish the grub at the other woman’s
table and she was a real cook, too.’

And when it comes to telling ’em about his mighty Russell
Engine well, Perce Sherman simply can’t be outdone swappin’
stories ’round the old shop pot-bellied stove with the rest of
the throttle-jerkin’ boys.

‘Never forget the time I was work-in’ my Russell at a
big tractor-pullin’ contest,’ muses Perce. ‘The tractor
men watched my Russell perform, then they challenged me to hitch-up
to one of their big tractors for a tug-o’-war. Well, I
out-pulled the first one, then they wanted to hitch on two and I
out-pulled them. Before it was over I had five tractors hitched on
the other end of that chain and still the old Russell inched
’em backwards. Were they ever a disillusioned lot when I got
through workin’ ’em over with the Russell.’

And then there was the time when Perce and Billy Benner ganged
up to drive Billy’s wonderful Baker to do a hitch at plowing
with 8-bottoms at Ft. Wayne, Indiana. The Baker snorted forward
effortlessly under the expert throttling of the indefatigable
Sherman. But Perce suddenly stopped the Baker, grabbed his big
wrench and began working around the governor before the hundreds
watching with their jaws hanging in wonderment at what had stalled
the mighty Baker. ‘We’re just playin”, said Perce
to me, riding atop the engine to get a good recording.
‘Makin’ ’em think we’re stalled.’ In a moment
Perce was back at the throttle and the mighty Baker snorted
effortlessly forward to complete some 600 feet of plowing the dry,
hard Allen county ground, to the resounding cheers of the crowds
following along.

It’s always with the greatest sadness that one says
‘Goodbye’ to such as Percy Sherman, come the close of the
summer’s threshing reunion season. But he always has a way of
injecting the usual bit of mirth so characteristic of his Iron
Man’s philosophy, born of his many years of out-foxing
Nature’s vicissitudes to get the threshing and/ or
sawmillin’ done in spite of the ‘devil’.

‘I’ve been invited to. visit with Jack Tucker, the
undertaker, down Lexington-way,’ said Perce. ‘He promised
that, if I died down there at the throttle, he’d embalm me
free,’ laughed Sherman, waving goodbye. And how happy we were
to say to Percy Sherman, at the very next reunion, ‘Well,
we’re glad that Jack Tucker the ‘undertaker’ didn’t
get you embalmedeven if it was ‘for free’.’

There’s nothing that can get to the soft-spot of ye Iron
Man, Percy Sherman, as to present him with a birthday cake, such as
my wife did, while he was standing on the deck of a Russell engine
at the Darke County Thresher’s at Greenville, Ohio.

‘This touches me I don’t know, for once, what to
say,’ replied Perce.

And all we can say in reply is, ‘Keep right on havin’
em’ Perce, and the cakes will keep right on comin’. Even if
those Keystone Kops get you and we have to fetch your cakes to
jail.’

Farm Collector Magazine
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