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Horse Power

Posted December 12, 2012 in Community Featured

A gleaming I-H is one of thousands of engines that Jim Wiggerman has worked on and built or rebuilt over the years.

If there’s an engine around that needs a little work, perhaps an old one that no one else quite knows what to do with anymore, a call to a retired Iowa Central Community College instructor just might be in order.

Jim Wiggerman has worked on more horsepower in his day than most men have seen — and that includes genuine “Horse Power.”

“I started working in a blacksmith shop when I was probably 6 or 7 years old. I would hold the horses while they put the shoes on them,” Wiggerman recalls.

But he was doing more than just holding those horses— he was always watching and learning.

By the time he was about 10 or 11, Wiggerman, a northwest Iowa native, had graduated to making the shoes to fit by getting the horse to stand on a piece of cardboard, drawing a circle around its hoof and forging the shoes in just the right size for each horse.

As the years went by, Wiggerman worked threshing crews in Iowa and South Dakota, did a five-year stint in the U.S. Navy, and then became a high school shop teacher in LeMars before being recruited to start the Iowa Central Machine Technology program in the mid-1960s.

“When I got here, I guess you could say I found a home. I was at Iowa Central for 25 years before I retired,” he notes.

He “retired” in 1993, but for someone who started doing “man’s work” as just a child, he never he even thought about just resting on his laurels. These days, Wiggerman is active in the Des Moines River Valley Antique Tractor and Engine Club and continues to work on and enjoy the machines he grew up working on.

Wiggerman, as teachers noted early on, has always been mechanically gifted, but he contends that it’s more than just book learning that counts in the real work-a-day world.

“You can’t teach common sense,” he agrees.

Over the years, he had two main lessons that he most wanted to stay with his students for a lifetime, no matter what they ended up doing for a living.

“The thing I teach my students is: never forget your parents, and never forget your God,” Wiggerman says as a warm smile washes across his face.

Contact Darren at 515-953-4822 ext. 304 or to recommend someone for an upcoming issue of “What’s In Your Garage?”

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