Thursday, December 23, 2010
Prairie Grain Elevator
My first summer job when I was 15 was cleaning out the grain dust in the bottom of the bins in the Pool elevator for Bill McClughan , the operator! We lived in the railway station across the tracks from the Pool elevator which also had an attached annex. My brother Ken used to sit in the railway office and shoot rats around the annex through the open window with his 22 when our dad wasn't around. One day he aimed too low and the bullet hit the track and ricocheted through another window. That ended his rat hunting career! My job was to shovel out the grain dust , rat droppings and general debris, in the bottom of the bins, to get ready for the fall storage season. The prairie elevators are now an iconic reminder of a special past and a way of life when industrial farming was nonexistent. The elevators announced each town in large letters to the passers through, a statement of importance to us. The elevator had a grated weigh scale where the grain truck was weighed full and then empty. Grain was dumped through the grate and samples taken by the elevator operator for grading during the dumping stream, Then the grain was carried by the elevating buckets to the top of one of the 16, 80 foot high bins and poured into them. During the fall and winter when the grain was loaded into box cars the loading was not from the bottom. As a consequence the detritus, rat droppings, chaff and dust settled to the bottom of each bin over the winter and spring to about three to four feet high as I remember. It was a dusty job cleaning the bins out, getting them clean for the fall harvest. The dust and detritus got in your clothes and hair and nostrils. I was happy with my first paying job but I understand why Bill McClughan didn't want to do it. I was strong and never got sick. We didn't have running water so it was hard to keep clean every day since our water had to be hauled from the town pump and heated on the stove top. My bath water in the galvanized tub looked like porridge at the end of each bath. I have a slightly altered view of the romantic nature of the iconic prairie elevator.