THE GREAT SAWING CONTEST

By Staff
article image
Marvin Green
Courtesy of Marvin Green, Boyden, Iowa 51234

Courtesy of Henry L. Abels, Clay Center, Kansas 67432

Oh yes, I guess I never did tell you about my early experience
with the Grand Old Stickney. Well, just settle back in your easy
chair and I will roll back the curtain about 60 years. Year
1906.

Being an industrious young buck, eager to make my mark upon the
world, and give it something to set its sights by, I decided to go
into the fire-wood sawing business. Therefore, I needed some
power.

Now Father, being a practical sort of person, told me I should
get a good, reliable outfit, and not listen to some high-powered
salesman. He said I should buy an engine with plenty of power and
heavy flywheels. He did mention the celebrated Stickney.

After looking at the ads in Fathers ‘Thresher’s
Review’, for August, 1906, I contacted the Stickney company,
and they sent me their literature. After much thought and study
reading their many testimonials, I decided their 10 h.p. size with
the wonderful tube type ignitor would be just right to convert the
ugly logs and limb wood into neat sticks of firewood. This firewood
was much needed for heat and cooking, and our area had a plentiful
supply of varied kinds of wood.

Now I set out to be the fastest sawyer on this side of Wild
Horse River. Father helped me build a rolling table saw, with
engine and all, mounted on a heavy set of steel wheeled trucks,
which were equipped with a brake attachment for easing up on the
horses going down hill. This would do away with staking down, etc.,
of separate rigs. Also, Father put a spring on the table to return
it quickly as he said, ‘It is no good to strap your leg to the
table or to have the old swinging table.’

Now with old Prince and Pete, a quiet but sturdy team to pull
the rig around with, I was in business. With only one team for my
customers to board, it put me ahead of my competitors with the
Horse Power, and the many teams needed to run the saw, and the need
to haul coal and water for the steam rigs was eliminated. I never
unhitched old Prince and Pete while sawing, so we could move from
pile to pile. If the block pile got too big, we could move up to
make it easier on the block thrower.

The 10 Hp. Stickney engine which my brother and I restored. It
is owned by Henry and Wilfred Abels of Clay Center, Kansas. It
makes a nice show piece.

This picture was taken in 1942. It is one of the first portable
feed grinders, 15 in. Sears Roebuck mill mounted on rubber with
converted thresher auger and a 1932 Caterpiller ’30’ that I
got for $125.00 before the junk man did. I still use both.

A 1941 picture showing a 1927 Dodge made into a pickup with wide
tread John Deere (Serial No. 404-147) tractor and Case Combine
ready to roll. I pulled it all over Sioux County doing flax and
beans.

Cat and Sears grinder with the jeep I made 22 years ago. 1928
Ford Four Dodge with International 6 speed rear end. The wife still
hauls all the corn home with it alone.

Oh yes, now there was another fellow, Tom Jones, who thought he
would be smart and get a rig and run the ‘kid’ out of
business. So, he got what Father called a ‘jobbers’ engine,
and a stake down saw. He talked long and loud how he would outsaw
me.

I set my price at 50 cents per hour, and I soon had more sawing
than I could do. How well I remember the many cold frosty mornings
with the snow squealing under the wheels while driving to the next
job with old Prince and Pete.

Oh yes, the farm wives were always glad to see me come as I
always brought them several choice cotton tails or squirrels, which
I shot with my trusty Colt ‘Lightning’ 22 rifle Father gave
me when I was sixteen The farm wives usually saved then for Sunday
dinners for their relations. I always shot my game through the
eyes, so not to spoil or tear up any meat. My favorite shot was to
shoot a squirrel through the eyes while sitting on the seat of my
saw rig without stopping old Prince and Pete. If I ever missed, it
was because a wheel dropped in a hole.

Oh yes, that reminds me of the wonderful meals the farm wives
cooked for the sawyers. Each seemed to try to outdo the other.
Usually they had just butchered several hogs or a beef, and the
sour kraut, pig’s feet and ears, with cornbread, choice steaks,
fried mush, spare ribs, homemade sausage, and suet or blood pudding
for dessert still makes my mouth water. When the farm dinner bell
rang, everyone made a bee-line for the house.

Now the old ‘Stick’ never failed to start on the first
turnover. Many called it the ‘old reliable’, but I had an
affectionate name for the old Stickney-‘Betsy’.

Oh yes, Betsy was a blue-eyed girl who wore a big red ribbon bow
on the back of her long brown braids. She lived down the road a
piece, and went to the same school as I did when I took the three
R’s. I was kinda sweet on her. I think she liked me too,
’cause she told her brother to tell me what her box would look
like at the box social. Gee, I had to pay $1.50 for her box. That
was more than any other box brought. Three whole hours of sawing,
but I’d have sawed all day just to sit by Betsy and eat out of
her box. She had so many store-bought goodies in it.

My son Jerry, 17, with a 1936 Harley Cycle like new.

Well, I never did have nerve enough to take her sparkin’,
’cause we only had an old buggy with no top, and Tom was about
half work horse and had no style. I asked Father about buying a new
buggy and a fancy driving horse and harness with lots of rings, but
Father, being a practical sort, said, ‘Son, with these
new-fangled gas buggies I been reading about, I wouldn’t invest
in a horse and buggy.’

Oh yes, I started to tell you about old Betsy, which was always
called the ‘Stick’. I always let her warm up exactly three
minutes before sawing, exactly the time it took to fill the oiler
and oil saw and engine. I used Polarine engine oil. Every day the
dull groan of the blade cutting frosty cord-wood, or the
high-pitched wail of the blade cutting dry hedge could be heard
along with the pop of old Betsy. I become known as ‘Hurring
Hank, the Sawman.’

Now during my career as sawman, I only used Diston cordwood
blades. 36′ for large firewood, and 30′ for hedge wood,
railroad ties, etc. Often, Mr. Diston would himself come out from
the factory with a new blade for me to try before he put it on the
market, and the same with saw files. I always used Nicholson saw
files, and Mr. Nicholson never put a new saw file on the market
without my approval. Every evening I spent filing saws for the day
ahead. In the winter, I often filed saws in the kitchen with a pan
of pop corn, and York Imperial apples to eat.

Now Sebastian Porter, ‘Seb’ for short, often went with
me as block thrower. Now Seb had a sturdy build and not too many
smarts upstairs, as we say now. His only ambition was to be the
fastest block thrower in the Wild Horse Valley. Most block throwers
soon found themselves up to the waist in blocks after 30 minutes of
sawing, but not Seb. He kept the ground bare in a 10 foot
circle.

Now in Brushville, the ‘hot stove league’ used to talk
about their favorite sawyers and who sawed the most, so it
wasn’t very long till I was challenged to a sawing contest in
Brule’s woods. Of course, Tom Jones and ‘Windy’ Ike
McFadden were the other two rigs to challenge me. Now being a
modest sort of person, I didn’t’ want to show them up so.
But Seb said, ‘Boss, they need to be showed somethin’
‘. So, I agreed.

This picture show part of engine collection and grinders that
were on display at our Jubilee in 1964.

This picture show part of engine collection and grinders that
were on display at our Jubilee in 1964.

On the appointed day, we three rigs, along with most of
Brushville (pop. 150) and Brush county showed up at Brule’s
woods. They had neat piles of cottonwood logs to saw. The sawing
time was to be 30 minutes, to saw 14′ standard stove lengths
from the cottonwood logs. Oh yes, Ike had a four team Horse Power
with four of the best teams in the country, and he swore he’d
show them popin’ engines a thing or two. Oh yes, we had a
little delay when Banker Clutchen drove in with his new-fangled
popin’ gas buggy. And, we had a horse stampede which delayed
the contest awhile.

I tightened up the governor on old Betsy, and put another spring
on the saw tage to return it faster. At the starting shot we were
off. I doubled all the logs the 36′ Diston blade would cut
through. Seb was at his best that day with a block in each hand and
rolling another under each foot. He was a sight to behold. (He told
me he used to burl logs on the Salmon river in Idaho.)

Well, you guessed it, thanks to old Betsy and Seb, our pile was
twice as big as the others. The judges didn’t even have to
measure our pile. Then Banker Clutchen came over to me and said,
‘Young feller, you cost me some dough today ’cause I bet on
Tom Jones and his–engine.’ ‘Clutch’, said I, ‘you
should have known better than to bet on anything but the Grand Old
Stickney.’

So thus ended a chapter in the life of ‘Hurrying Hank, the
Sawman.’

‘Ten Minutes of good luck will make you forget all the bad
luck you ever had.’

This is a ‘Pioneer’ tractor made by Floyd Heaton of
South Sioux City, Nebraska. He used a twin Maytag engine but made
it water cooled and runs a thresher and hay baler with it. He also
has a stationary single cylinder engine (about 12 HP if full grown)
that he made.

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