While driving across the plains you can see the leg of a grain elevator on the horizon and you know a small community is ahead; eight miles ahead. The passage of the railroad created the necessity to have depots every eight miles, providing locomotives with water and coal. Westward expansion was based on this railroad structure.
I grew up observing these vertical structures as the highest point of every community. The concrete silos and galvanized bins connected with a sculpted array of shoots and conveyors are juxtaposed to church steeples, dairy queens, swing sets and gas stations. Homes often surround every side, except for the buffer that was created by a rail line that ran next to the elevator.
The elevator was not separate from the community, but rather the center of it.
A wide variety of personal stories and facts surround each elevator. Immigrants built the railroads, another wave of immigrants homesteaded and farmed as the country grew west, and yet another started businesses at these stops on the rail line. Every community still bares the sensibilities of its origin.
I moved to Malden, Indiana in March 2008. The view looking north from my house is the elevator. I understand and experience the elevator as the center of my community. Any and all weather events are talked about along with a host of other topics; babies, jokes, weddings, divorces, new trucks, red or green tractors, accidents, fires and deaths. There is a collection of posters advertising events and sales, product brochures, computer monitors with current prices and weather conditions and a 20lb box of caramels. The pop machine, a water bubbler and a coffee pot are opposite the scale. The phone never stops ringing.
Former United States Senator from Indiana, Birch Bayh said it best when he wrote, The local grain elevator did more than handle grain. As in most small towns, the grain elevator was the economic center and hub of male social life. I concur.
Aimee Tomasek 2013
San Pierre 0859
Union Mills 0347
Crescent City 3840
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