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Published April 05 2013

Toy wagons honor man’s grandfather

Fargo - LeRoy Hintz has found a special way to honor his grandfather’s memory.

The 71-year-old Fargo man makes miniature wooden Western wagons by hand, but without using any pattern or model.

Hintz instead bases his wagons on memory and past experience. He worked on his grandfather’s farm in Elgin until he was 14 years old.

Hintz mainly makes hayrack, freight and header wagons, as well as the occasional stagecoach. They’re the kind of wagons his grandfather used for farming before he eventually purchased a tractor.

Each wagon is paired with two collectible horses, which Hintz and his wife, Carol, purchase online. Carol then assembles the horse’s harnesses.

Hintz didn’t start making the wagons until 2008, when he was recovering from a stroke and was looking for a hobby to keep himself busy.

“I figured, ‘Well, this is what I’ll do,’ ” he said last month at the Sugar Valley Farm Toy Show in West Fargo, where he and Carol were set up at a booth near the front door.

“It’s a good hobby,” he added.

He makes the wagons using different types of wood, and uses a saw to cut and shape the wood in his north Fargo home. A single wagon takes him about two weeks to a month to complete, depending on the size and difficulty.

The hobby wasn’t too difficult for him to pick up, having worked with his hands a lot throughout his career.

“I’m kind of a handy guy all around,” he said.

He’s made roughly 30 wagons since he started, and has sold several of them at other toy shows in North Dakota and Minnesota.

Carol, who also works with wood crafts, said her husband has been getting better with each wagon he makes.

“He’s improved with the wheels. He’s learning more and more,” she said. “He’s enjoying himself, too.”

More than just a way to keep busy, though, Hintz said the hobby is meaningful to him. In a way, the activity helps him honor the memory of his grandpa.

With each wagon he makes, he fondly remembers the many summers he spent working on the farm.

“I take a lot of pride in these,” he said, turning a wagon over in his hand to inspect. “My grandpa and I were really close.”

With arthritis in his hands, Hintz isn’t sure how much longer he’ll be able to make the wagons.

For now, as long as he’s able, he’ll continue with the hobby. He does it partly in honor of his grandfather, and partly for people who, like him, remember working with similar wagons during their childhood.

“When I see someone appreciating it, I enjoy it,” he said, as he watched shoppers browse his collection.

Hintz takes special orders for his wagons. Call (701) 293-6018 for more information.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535