How It Was

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Lueken and Pund bought the last Kitten engine off the assembly line#240, built in 1940. Joseph F. Lueken and Leo Pund partnered up in 1936, operating a threshing business during the season and a saw mill the rest of the year.

For the farming operation they used two sets of Kitten equipment two steam engines, two threshers, two clover haulers, two corn shredder sand two different teams that took off in two different directions each July 4th. Operators work from dawn to dusk, traveling from circle to circle. Threshing circles were set up among neighborhoods, say 12 families in the St. Henry area would form a circle and the next 10 farmers down the road would set up another circle.

It took up to 30 people working from sun-up until 9:30 at night. When one farmer's field was finished the crew would move ahead to the next farm in the cluster.

Merlyn Lueken, Joe's son, joined the family business when he returned from service in 1946. Merl served as fireman, which meant he fired the engine for threshing and kept it going a hot and thoroughly boring job. He had to make sure the steam did not get too high, if it did the pop off valve would blow and the horses would spook.

Merl claims their threshing operation could completely thresh as many acres as the large combines used today, but the people needed to run the operation made it obsolete. Everyone in the threshing ring would get involved. The women would prepare dinner and supper with two extra lunches in between. The men would assist some driving wagons (up to eight were used) to bring wheat and oats in to the thresher so there would be no lag time, others moving ahead to prepare the next fields.

The operations were better organized than one might expect they had to be. Each season Joe Lueken would begin at St. Ferdinand Church and follow the circles to Bretzville, Huntingburg, St. Henry and back to Ferdinand while Mr. Pund took his equipment south through Mariah Hill, Fulda and St. Meinrad. The route would vary so that no circle would be upset about the timing of their threshing. Those that knew they would be last in the season sometimes put up their grain in a barn where it would be threshed when the time arrived.

Lueken and Pund stored the new Kitten engine when the threshing season ended until it began again the next July. The other engine was used in the sawmill operation.

As combines became available threshing circles diminished. Lueken and Pund discontinued that part of their business around 1954. They were getting grief from the state highway department, who objected to the havoc those Kitten engine rims were playing with their newly laid roads and the business was no longer profitable. Meanwhile more and more home-builders wanted the company to hang their work. The business gradually shifted from a sawmill and threshing operation to a lumber company and custom builder. Merl and his brother bought their father and friend out and eventually Merl and his sons became sole owners of the Lueken Lumber Company.

But all who enter see evidence of the early years, in a picture of the threshing crew and their Kitten engine hanging above.