Henry Naber’s Threshing Rig

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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

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

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

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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