Farm Collector

The Ladies Page


Not always is ye Iron Man the beefy, bulging-bicep kind of
critter bedecked in oily overalls, cheek pouched with leaf-scrap
and chewing on a ‘two far’. Sometimes he is the little,
sinewy fellow who mingles quietly with the crowd at the summertime
thresherman’s reunion as he goes from job to job doing what
comes naturally.

But let an engineer any engineer belt up to a separator any
separator, somewhere on the reunion grounds and it will be ready to
whir, because the quiet little fellow has been there before,
greasing, oiling, making all the necessary repairs and

Let the engines bark, separating the golden grain from the chaff
his hand is on the blower, heaping the straw stack higher and
higher into the summer-blue sky.

Let the noontime crowds swell till the gate keeps can’t keep
apace of the free-for-all scramble to snatch a prize seat at the
grandstand parade. A spidery little figure steeple-jacks his way
down from the machinery and hops like a cricket, dodging engines
and tractors as he bee-lines it to the ticket booth across the way.
With the wave of an arm and a sly, friendly grin from ear to ear,
you know you are welcome because Carlton Felger, charter member of
the National Thresherman’s Association, has already punched
your ticket and waved you on.

He’s one of the right-hand men of President LeRoy Blaker of
N.T.A., is Carlton Felger, rare admixture of the diplomat and
mechanic, spreading oil on troubled waters as he goes from chore to
chore, smoothing out difficulties between engineers and engines,
armed with nothing but pliers, pipe wrenches and a smile.

One of the most unobtrusive, unassuming of men, Carlton Felger
can bring the sunshine to any steam threshersmen’s reunion even
on a cloudy, rainy day. The slightly stooped but always meditative
figure of Iron Man Felger, like a spirit of goodwill among iron men
and iron monsters, lends proof sufficient that everything at the
National Thresher-men’s Reunion is running well or soon will

And when does this ‘whisper of a figure’ ever tire of
the many reunion tasks that might well weary a more robust soul?
Never, you sigh, as you watch him, sun-up to sundown, serving as
liaison ‘twist coal pile, slab-stack, water tank and engine
always the helping hand filling the many gaps that haunt any steam
threshermen’s shindig.

And, when the day’s work is finally o’er, and the shades
of evening lengthen, comes the time for reminiscing. And to him who
bends an ear, Carlton Felger always has a story to tell ’bout
the good old days of threshing by steam so turn your hearing aid
up, brother, and listen.

‘Never forget how our National Threshermen’s Association
got started,’ says the little fellow from Waldren, Michigan,
just turned 78. ‘Only sixty of us gathered at the LeRoy Blaker
farm home where LeRoy had three of his steam engines fired up all
Port Hurons. We did everything we wanted to with those engines that
Saturday,’ reminisces Felger. ‘At the end of the day we
said, ‘What’ll we do fellows meet again next
year’?’ ‘Well we all voted to meet again next year, and
LeRoy said, ‘Come ahead’. And the next year we had 130 more
than double the year before.’

‘The third year the fellows brought in more engines and the
crowd more than doubled again with 300 attending,’ grins
Felger, rolling his convincing eyes in your direction. ‘The
fourth year we invited fellows to fetch along some old-time
tractors and we got a Prony Brake to test the engines.’

‘I had a John Deere, an International and a Massey-Harris
and my son, Carlton Felger, Jr., hit forty-two-and-a-half
horsepower on that brake test with the Massey-Harris, winning over
all the other tractors,’ muses Felger with a glint of pride in
stride. ‘As the crowds kept growing, I began dividing my time
between the machinery and helping out at the gates often parking
cars and taking tickets from 7 a.m. till 9 or 10 at night as long
as they kept coming.’

But enough of this story-telling and reminiscing there’s a
job to be done. For in those serious, brown eyes, that lined and
weather-beaten visage of Iron Man Felger you note there’s a
forgotten chore somewhere untended.

‘So-and-so’s engine might be getting low in fuel and he
asked me to watch it.’ he mumbles quietly as out of his chair
he hops, sprinting toward the infield once more.

Unconsciously you follow him, zigzagging around brakes, belts
and machinery to catch a glimpse of this spry little Iron Man in

His gnarled farm hands blend ignominiously with the knurled bark
of the slabs being tossed into the hungry, gaping firebox door
whose flame emblazons the character of his countenance in the cool
night air.

You’ve watched him in action, you’ve listened to his
tale and you’re convinced his soul is not wanting.

‘May heaven, as well as thresher-men’s reunions, be
peopled with such,’ you catch yourself thinking as Carlton
Felger, with a smile and a wrench, takes his place on the Iron Man

  • Published on Jul 1, 1967
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