Story and Photos by Sam Waters
Fruita, Colo.

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January 15, 2014
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Palisade, Colo., woman turns inventor at 68; Creates, patents 'Mary's Cranky Feeder'

Mary Leonard these days serves as another reminder that you’re never too old to fulfill your dreams.

The Palisade, Colo., resident, 68, recently turned inventor, spending the past year designing and patenting her original horse feeder.

The feeder is designed specifically for sweet feed to break up the molasses and grain mixture that has a tendency to freeze in the winter and be sticky in the summer.

With an auger and funnel design, the feeder can hold 100 pounds of grain and can measure out exactly one gallon of feed. The four-bladed, hand-cranked auger breaks up the feed and drops into a funnel below that a sliding door allows to drop the measured amount into a bucket below.

“Mary’s Cranky Feeder,” as Leonard named it, is an invention that has been almost a lifetime in the making. Although the designing, building and patent work occurred over this past year, Leonard originally came up with the idea years ago while living in the mountain town of Fraser, Colo.

Leonard raised and showed horses for 30 years and hated having to break up the frozen sweet feed in the winters and thought there had to be a better way to store and dispense the feed. It was during this time she started thinking of the design for a feeder that would break up the sweet feed for her.

She had always kept the idea in the back of her mind but time but it wasn’t until she moved to Palisade and was recovering from two hip surgeries did she have the time to dedicate to making that idea become a reality.

After having a friend draw up a sketch for her feeder idea, Leonard took it to Grand Mesa Mechanical, and there shop foreman Paul Daniels helped her build and tweak her design.

“She’s definitely persistent. She came in with an idea and we’ve tweaked it until she’s been happy with it,” Daniels said.

The idea has needed modification and still needs perfecting, Leonard said, “But it works. It really does.”

After beginning work on her prototype, Leonard went about obtaining a patent for her feeder design.

Learning the language for the patent proved to be the hardest part of her entrepreneurial endeavor.

But after spending some time on it without help from anyone, Leonard was able to obtain the patent.

Leonard originally had the idea of two different sized feeders; the one she currently has, which she refers to as “Junior,” and one that could hold 200 pounds, which she calls “Big Daddy.” But after some time spent on this project, she realized “Junior” would likely be the more successful and practical of the two.

While this is Leonard’s latest run at entrepreneurship, it is not her first. Leonard owned and operated her own Western store in Fraser, taught riding lessons and worked as a vendor at events like National Western Stock Show, operating under the name Lineshack Trading LLC. She also used to buy produce from Palisade and haul it up to Winter Park to sell.

“Being an entrepreneur ... I think it’s in my blood,” Leonard said. “This may not be my first bout at being an entrepreneur, but I feel like it’s my best.”

But Leonard’s entrepreneurial ideas do not stop with “Mary’s Cranky Feeder.”

She has ideas of starting a community garden in Palisade for people with low-income and hopes of acquiring land in the near future where she can raise fruits and vegetables and put out her own line of jams and jellies.

For now, though, her focus is selling her horse feeders. After over a year of work and “hope and a prayer,” Leonard said she is finally ready to sell “Mary’s Cranky Feeder.”

“It’s been exhilarating. It’s been wonderful,” Leonard said. “And knowing I did this by myself is just awesome.” ❖

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The Fence Post Updated Jan 16, 2014 04:54PM Published Jan 28, 2014 10:00AM Copyright 2014 The Fence Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.