From Janice Huber Stangl
My father, Edward Huber, was born near Hosmer, South
Dakota in the early 1900's. He was about 11 years old when he started
working on the threshing crews around Hosmer. He remembers working
as straw carrier for John Himmrich's steam threshing machine as
his first job. When they set up the machine on a new site, Dad would
need to pitch straw into a wagon to haul it from the last site,
to start up the machine. Before the new strawstack became too large,
he would climb under the machine to pitch loose straw unto the carrier
that fed the steam engine's firebox.
By the 1920s, August Stoecker had a gasoline McCormick-Deering
machine. He would use six teams of horses to haul bundles on an
average sized field. Seven teams were used to bring in shocks from
further locations on larger fields. Neighboring farmers would supply
their own teams. My Grandpa, Jacob Huber, Dad, and his brothers,
Albert and Reinhold, usually provided three or four teams. The younger
brothers, Eugene and Calvin, would "work the grain wagon."
This work was to shovel the grain to keep it distributed evenly
in the grain wagon, so they would not have to make so many trips
back to the farm yard to unload the wagons into the granaries.
When the machine and crew would move farther away
from home, it was too far to travel home for nighttime. The crew
members would take out their blanket roll, crawl up into the farmer's
hayloft for their night's rest. They would carry two blankets with
them. One to sleep on, the other to cover themselves. And yes, they
also slept in the same clothes they had worked in. Dad said that
if it had been a particularly hot week, their sleeves were so stiffly
salt coated from perspiration they could hardly bend their arms.
It was a great relief when a rain shower passed, so they could stand
out in it to get washed off by Mother Nature! He had often thought
to himself that he would have liked to jump into the farmer's stock
tank, but the livestock would probably not have drunk the water
Several harvest seasons, Dad and one or more of his
brothers would hop on the train in Hosmer, and go to Strasburg,
North Dakota. This was circa 1925. The machine there was owned by
three farmers. It was a steamer that burned coal. He remembers threshing
on the farms of Lawrence Welk, Tony Werrich, ? Fiest and ? Keller.
The "motel" at the Welk farm was the hayloft in the barn,
as it was on all farms. The method of threshing here was pitching
cut grain that had been stacked into large stacks. The farmer would
place two stacks close enough so that the machine could be pulled
between them. The crew could then pitch the grain directly unto
the feeder of the machine. Horses were still used , but only for
the grain wagons. If the weather was too bad to thresh, the crew
would pass the time by playing cards. Separate tables would be set
up, one for those playing for money and one for those who did not.
Dad's older brother, Jake, would play for money. One time he came
to Dad to get more money, but he would not give him any. Jake left
with a long face, but that was the end of that story!
Dad remembers The Bazaar in Strasburg. It was a grocery,
dry goods, and even some hardware, store all in a one-stop shopping
center. John Baumgartner, ? Keller and ? Fischer owned this store
and also a farm about 10 miles southwest of Strasburg. They had
a hired man and usually a family to manage the farm, as they lived
in town. Dad worked on their farm during spring's work one year
[preparing and planting the grain fields].
I asked Dad what provisions were made for their meals.
The threshing crew, which consisted of about 15 men, would have
three meals a day at the farmer's home where they threshed. The
farmer's wife would set up a long board on two ten gallon cream
cans, with wash basins, soap and water, for the crew to clean up
before meals. The food was not fancy. By mealtime they were so hungry
anything would taste good! Potatoes were usually served three times
a day. Soup and chicken were other standard fare, plus homemade
bread. Dad says that sometimes the soup had flies in it, if you
did not eat it fast enough. The flies would drop into the soup as
they were eating it. At one farm even the tail of the chicken was
served on the meat platter. Needless to say it was never eaten!
They were also served a lunch about midafternoon. Dad says that
homemade bread and watermelon was a great afternoon treat. Stoecker's
family would sometimes serve kuchen, which greatly pleased the crew.
A favorite when threshing at the Huber farm would be a glass of
Grandpa Huber's homemade chokecherry wine. They also had homemade
root beer and beer as a special treat at some farms.
One autumn, before he was married, he had finished
working on his regular crews. Gust and Adolph Treichel's crew was
still working south of Bowdle, South Dakota. They needed some extra
help, so they could finish before the snow would start flying. Dad
went down to help. One warm day, the farmer's wife set several bottles
of beer on a bench outside as part of their afternoon lunch. She
admonished them, "Be careful when you open them!" Sure
enough, when one of the men opened the first bottle it exploded
into smithereens! All that was left in his hand, was the neck of
the bottle. The dog took off in the fastest gait you could ever
imagine, because he was sure he had been shot at with a shotgun!
Poor fella probably is still running in doggy heaven today.
[Based on an interview conducted on 16 Feb 1997]