Henry Naber's Threshing Rig

Chuck Sindelar
January/February 1994


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S47 W22300 Lawnsdale Rd. Waukesha, Wisconsin 53186

The late Henry Naber (1891-1943) farmed and did custom threshing and corn shelling in Seward County, Nebraska, near Beaver Crossing, from about 1910 to 1943, when his health forced him to turn the operation over to his son, Ernie.

His engine (see photo) was a return flue Huber, believed to be of 30 HP. Note the unusual two wheel tender. The top is filled with coal, and the sides appear to be tool boxes. The men are not stacking straw, so they probably do not intend to save it. In areas where straw was not needed it was commonplace to 'torch the stack' before moving on to the next set merely to be rid of it.

My grandfather, Frank Sindelar, 'followed the harvest' for several seasons 'somewhere in the big wheat fields out West.' He told of how the smoke from a torched stack was a signal that could be seen for many miles. It meant that that set was finished, and the rig was 'on the move' towards the next set.

Local 'cornhuskers' today deny that any straw piles were ever burned in their area. 'Nothing was wasted,' they say. Obviously that practice was dictated by local needs and customs.

Note the dog, though somewhat blurred no doubt by movement, near the wheel of the tender. The lush growth in the foreground appears too uniform to be merely weeds. It has been suggested that it may be alfalfa. Do any of you have a better idea?

The rear wheel of a separator appears exceptionally wide, maybe with as much as a 12 inch tire. This would indicate a large separator and/or soft ground in this area. Note the divider board in the feeder and the type of grain being fed into the jaws of this hungry monster. It appears loose, rather than in bundles, and the straw appears to be very long.

One of Henry's old neighbors, Cloyd Cooper, now living in Seward, Nebraska, remembers Henry as having a Minneapolis separator with this rig. Maybe some of you can confirm that this one is indeed a 'Minnie.' Mr. Cooper laughed when he recently told his daughter Ruth Marie about an incident he remembered involving this particular engine. It seems that one spring a wooden culvert under a road had been heaved up by the frost. Cloyd's father wanted all the neighbors to petition the county to have it fixed. When Henry was asked to sign the petition he told them, 'not necessary as old Mr. Huber will take care of it.' And, sure enough, after passing over the raised culvert a few times with 'old Mr. Huber' it was pushed back down where it should be.

A copy of the original picture was given me by my sister, Sindi (Ethel) Klemsz of rural Ithaca, Nebraska. Henry Naber was a grandfather to her late husband, Dale Klemsz. Dale's Aunt Dorothy (Naber) still lives near Beaver Crossing, not far from where this picture was taken. Dorothy's late husband, Ernie, and Dale's late mother, Mammie Naber Klemsz, were brother and sister. Dorothy has the original photograph and furnished the following information. The picture was likely taken in 1927. The engine survived the relentless scrap drives of World War II and well into the 1950s, when combines in the area forced it to rest. It was then sold and moved to somewhere in western Nebraska where threshing was still being done at that time. (Maybe it is still alive and well. Now, wouldn't that be a nice 'The Rest of the Story''? How about it, you guys? Do any of you have this engine?)

Dorothy relates that her father-in-law burned almost exclusively coal, but used 'cobs' to get the fire going each morning. The man on the engine platform is Henry Naber, and his brother, Buchard (pronounced Buckerd), is standing on the ground beside the engine. After Dorothy married Henry's son, Ernie, in 1939, this rig came annually to their farm as they were part of that run. Dorothy well remembers cooking for the crew of 15-20 hungry men on an old wood cook stove, but being wood was scarce she was forced to burn mostly cobs. She remembers that the men loved iced tea, so she'd go to town and get a chunk of ice to satisfy their craving. She says that at their farm they allowed the straw stack to remain through the winter. It gave the cattle a little break from the bitter cold wind that never seemed to stop blowing in Nebraska. Even though the nutritional value of straw is minimal, the cattle did eat some of the pile, but what remained in the spring was burned so the land could be plowed.


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