| March/April 1971

W. R. Schmidt Machine Shop

Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana 47390.

Joe Fahnestock

Dayton Daily News & Radio's 'Joe's Journal'

Once upon a time there were three bears -- Papa (Wallis) Bear, Middle-sized (Wallis Cub) Bear and Baby (Wallis Cub Jr.) Bear. Papa Bear growled 'n roared whenever anyone tried to kick his big rumpus of a motor over and get it to going. Middle-sized Bear merely whimpered, 'Chug, chug,' while Baby Bear cried, 'Pop, Pop, Poppa -- somebody's sitting in my seat 'n he's driving me crazy.'

Everyone, it seems, had been seeing 'Papa' Wallis Bear Tractor, around at all the various midwestern steam and gas reunions. But it wasn't until I had attended The Mountain Days Show at Bluffton, Ohio, last summer, that I first heard the story of The Three (Wallis) Bears as told by the Schmidt brothers -- E. F. and W. R.

It was the second year for the gathering together of antique gas engines, tractors and a sprinkling of steam engines, back behind the Bluffton High School football stadium. The 'first-nighters' basked in the rhythm of marching school bands across the green while the grandstand crowds, cheering the pigskin pushers, drowned out the usual din of popping gas engines. Papa (Wallis) Bear loomed shadowy in the night air, like a giant bruin watching guard over his pride of cubs. The steam engines simmered like monsters in repose, resting for tomorrow's labors.

When the morning sun arose, on the first day, the huge Wallis Bear on its seven-foot drivers towered like a primeval monster over the smaller tractors and engines around it. Art Heiland from Anna, Ohio, was chopping kindling to feed the little firebox of his small, six-horse Huber which he had built. It was cool and the dampness of the early hour wafted the wood smoke from the Huber stack back over the 'fringe on top' -- one of the more charming and nostalgic of Huber trademarks. Mama Heiland was frying bacon in the 'open-air kitchen' -- the aroma of bacon and wood smoke prompting engineer Heiland to hustle along his kindling splitting chores in time for breakfast. And all of it smelled mighty good to O. W. Nichols who was feeding sticks into the firebox of 'Sassy Lady' only twenty barnyard clod-hopper jumps away.

Gas engine and tractor men don't have to rise as early of a morn, as do the steam engine men who have their fire-boxes 'n boilers to feed 'n fill. For them the day begins a couple of hours later -- lugging gas cans and checking dripping crankcase oil-sticks, thence twisting cranks and heaving heavy fly-wheels to set the mighty din into motion.