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Bob Lind, Published November 11 2012

Lind: Just like this year, the Upper Midwest had a serious drought the year Renaldo B. Huffman came to North Dakota as a child.

Just like this year, the Upper Midwest had a serious drought the year Renaldo B. Huffman came to North Dakota as a child.

His parents, driven out of South Dakota by the drought, moved their family by covered wagon in 1885 to Minnewaukan.

Renaldo, who was known as “R.B.,” grew up there, established his own farm, got married to Nellie and had children.

They once spent a winter in a vacated schoolhouse that was so cold they almost froze to death. But R.B. eventually built a house and barn using material from the school.

Then, in 1912, he did something that made his neighbors laugh. The crazy guy built a concrete silo. What good would that be in wheat country?

What will he do next?

Then R.B. made another wild move: He planted sweet clover as a pasture crop and soil builder. This made some neighboring farmers so mad, they wanted him arrested, according to a 1938 issue of the Farm Credit Messenger.

A copy of that issue of the Messenger was sent in by Marlene Christenson, Fargo. She is Renaldo’s granddaughter.

Well, R.B. wasn’t arrested. He, in fact, became one of Benson County’s top farmers.

The Messenger said that eventually his neighbors took pride in him and what proved to be his good farming practices, and gave him many responsibilities.

He became president of the Benson County Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Co.; president of the local Farmers Union Elevator Co.; director of the Farmers Union Oil Co.; a board member of the county Agricultural Adjustment Administration; and president of the county National Farm Loan Association when it was founded. He was a key figure in promoting crop insurance in the state.

He kept meticulous farming records, including costs, income and yields per acre. And despite dry years and sometimes low farm prices, he made a go of it.

He had a Holstein dairy herd that one year led all North Dakota herds with a record of 328 pounds of butterfat per cow, and his Duroc swine included the state fair champion boar six times.

And that silo that had other farmers snickering? Well, R.B. used it for corn, and only once did he fail to raise enough to fill it. However, a 1947 tornado destroyed it.

One more thing: He told the Messenger’s reporter who was writing him up to “not forget the good wife.”

After all, she and he together raised another fine crop: three children. One of them was Laura Huber, Fargo, Marlene Christenson’s mother.


If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to (701) 241-5487; or email blind@forumcomm.com