Friday, July 25, 2008


Nebraskan Odds and Ends

I was originally going to include a somewhat humorous and somewhat serious series of pictures demonstrating the hazards of farming. The genesis of the idea goes back some ten years when I was in Nebraska and noticed that the yellow pages listed more entries for prosthetic limbs than psychoanalysts; the reverse, of course, would be true in New York. But as I was actually trying to get work done during harvest, I didn't take the number of pictures I would have had I been a mere spectator.

At any rate, I did manage to get a picture of this stubble fire.

I overheard Eric advising someone to not drive on the stubble for fear of starting a fire. He didn't say this to me directly, but to my cousin, Paul, and I had to ask later if I had heard correctly that a vehicle can start a fire, which it turns out, it can. In matters like this, I'm generally happy to err on the side of caution--which does not explain why we all ended up driving on the stubble anyway (?!?). We were lucky not to start any fires, but I did see this one out of the car window, and took a picture to post. It is so dry and hot in Nebraska, I don't see the point of ever tempting fate.

Gordon asked me to post this picture of "Suds and Mugs," which, as far as I was able to tell from my investigation, is a laundry/bar/video game establishment. I forgot to take photos of the signs which make clear which tubs are to be used for "greasers" and which may be used by regular folk like me. Presumably a greaser is not someone still trapped in the 50s with a comb stuck in a pocket.

I'd forgotten about this photo of a windmill, which should demonstrate even more clearly the scale of these things. I had a lot of fun driving the truck in the photo. It was enormous, but then again, anything large just gets swallowed up in the prairie.

Paul Jr. took us to an abandoned gas station located on the Nebraska and Wyoming border. There were apparently once two sets of gas pumps--one set for each state, and the price varied accordingly. People actually went from side to side in search of the cheapest price. Now the whole thing is abandoned, as though some sort of bomb hit it. As one of the combine drivers pointed out to me, things just sit outside, abandoned and preserved because of the dry air.

The abandoned office.

The boys found a bike and turned it upright. Tyler demonstrated his best grimacing biker face.

Mark was a more contemplative looking biker.

We end harvest with a steak dinner, which we initially intended to eat at the nearby reservoir. It rained that evening, however, and so we cooked the steaks just outside the quonset. I've learned that the vacuum cleaner has many uses. It can vacuum spilled wheat off of the ground, and assist in cleaning up the inside of a bin. When used in reverse, it is also good for getting coals to fire up in a hurry.

Uncle Mark made a chandelier by hanging a light bulb off of a large metal hook in the middle of the quonset. We'd saved this picnic table from my grandmother's house, and managed to fit the eight of us side by side.

Before I left Nebraska, I visited the grain elevator one more time to discover that it was completely full. Excess wheat was being dumped onto the ground (!) outside. Over the course of a few days, the pile grew and grew.

The pile of wheat bothered me. Looking at this, you would not think we were engaged in any kind of world wide food shortage.

I asked the manager of the elevator why the wheat was outside, and he told me: "A train'll be along August 1st." Of course, the wheat is subject to rain when piled up like this, but I was assured that the shape of the pile would mean that most rain would simply roll off of the top and into the ground. Nonetheless, it strikes me as very wasteful. Eric pointed out that the wheat would also mix a bit with rocks--this, when the elevator is so very stern about the number of rocks that enter into the elevator in the first place.

Though the pile of grain was an awesome sight, I hope this does not happen again next year. It is said that an accident of planning meant that the elevators were all full of grain, but the whiteboard inside the elevator seems to indicate that at least two of the tall bins (or are they called elevators? I have no idea) were full of "blended wheat." The wheat outside in the pile was perfectly good wheat. Why, then, was the elevator's storage used for blended wheat, while the nice wheat had to sit outside? This seems like an error in planning. If I were a farmer who did not get my grain to the elevator early in the harvest, I would be upset.

Once again, I found myself thinking that in another life, I would have turned all of this into some kind of logic game to be used on a standardized test.

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