About Grain Bin Work, a poem

A World War Two era grain bin, like the two in the story

Courtesy of: http://www.stockauctionco.com/AUCTIONS/Kauer/Butler3.JPG
Courtesy of: http://www.stockauctionco.com/AUCTIONS/Kauer/Butler3.JPG

July, 2006

Wheat, smelling sour with the heat -
A man could suffocate in minutes between the bin roof and grain.
My husband emerges from it, dusty, sweating.
He hands me his impact gun,
And with a fistful of wrenches, I climb down.
He follows, trailing a rope to salvage him with lest he stick in the bin...
Like pulling a cat from beneath a couch by its tail.

Six inches of pigeon dung on the floor of a different lidless grain bin.
Scott clubbed forty birds for the freezer,
And I breasted them out on the hood of the work truck.
The others got away.
One blinks at me, though it is dead.
Soon it is in the cooler with thirty-nine companions.
I climb into the bin through a doorway too high for graceful entry,
And smash fuzzy chicks with a wonder bar.
Then it is time to climb out again,
And break the tar seal at the base of the bin.

The tar cracks in the shadows,
Is soft enough to stick to the wonder bar in the sunlight
As I chisel the metal loose from the foundation,
Cutting through tar with hammer blows to the wonder bar.
Up grind the grain bin jacks, crashing loose the bin
As the cables squeal and groan.

Now the impact gun: Scott loud against ancient bolts on the outside,
While I scurry to keep pace with two wrenches inside the bin.
Where rust has melted metal to metal,
Vice grips are the order of the day,
Jarring in my hands and twisting loose
As the rust and impact gun win.
We torch them, and saw others,
While the nuts fall amongst oozing fuzzy chicks
And are lost in the bird dung.

At last, the doorway disappears,
As tier upon tier of the bin is brought low, dismantled,
And loaded onto a trailer.
I, inside, read from a book for recreation,
As the jacks tilt the bin downward like a cave around me.
The bucket of bolts grows heavier as we resume the tear-down.
More tiers, and the roof lies on the ground
With one ring supporting -
Like a shallow carousel roof without the color.
I climb out through the lidless hole,
Happy to be in the breeze.

The roof is tedious.
Dust rattles down to the rhythm of the impact gun,
As I still the nuts inside - and they break loose hard.
The roof lies in piles now,
Like a giant windmill fan dismantled.
The sheets are bent - they never fit well,
Even when the bin was new.

And with the same tedium,
The bin goes back up on a different property.
Carlson's a rich man - but he did not see the value
Of a new bin. The old,
He said, is worth the move.
There are two of them now,
The one like the other - derelicts
Side by side.

The construction site is baked hard,
And rock-like with impaction from truck tires.
The backhoe can barely dig.
On hoppers the two bins go -
And Carlson's men build the hoppers.
But first, listening to the Spanish cursing
Of the cement truck driver at his boss
(And we agree),

We pour cement.

Now it is curing under the influence of breezeless July,
And we take lunch, with the farm dog panting at our sides.
The cedar trees breathe coolness beside the cement pad,
And the pad draws the sun, storing heat like a battery.

Then, with the hoppers on the pad,
Tony, Carlson's hired man,
Tells us about getting stuck in a bin full of corn.
He was alone - in July.
But with the strength of will and Providence,
He worked free, sliding deep
Into the kernels like a coffin,
To safety and the door.

A man sometimes doesn't get out
Like that.
Like Ken Kurtzer,
Saving his nephew but losing himself.
Wheat devoured him, while workers stood by,
Helpless.

"With a boom truck and an operator who is never on time,    We move the bins into place    On the hoppers." [These last two bins were new, but at the same location.]
"With a boom truck and an operator who is never on time, We move the bins into place On the hoppers." [These last two bins were new, but at the same location.]
"Men with ropes help us pull them into place,     Gently, with the force required to Prod bulls aside in bucking chutes."
"Men with ropes help us pull them into place, Gently, with the force required to Prod bulls aside in bucking chutes."
"The sun follows me, glaring from the bin   As from a mirror."
"The sun follows me, glaring from the bin As from a mirror."

With a boom truck and an operator who is never on time,
We move the bins into place
On the hoppers.
A truck tire, trapped where the bin lids should be,
Suspends them from the cable, swinging.
Men with ropes help us pull them into place,
Gently, with the force required to
Prod bulls aside in bucking chutes.

We bolt them down, struggling to align holes
Of hoppers to bins.
With cursing, this is done,
And Scott climbs in,
To stifle under the torture of July.
A man cannot stay hydrated in a bin.
Outside, on a ladder at a height that makes me
Nervous in the wind,
The sun follows me, glaring from the bin
As from a mirror.

Again the impact gun rattles,
Finishing the work of the bin
In the energy-sapping oven of the interior,
And last, dangerously,
Scott climbs to build the ladders.
Between the bins he clings, connecting them
At the top
With a ladder piece no one will want to cross.
In the dark, it might be suicide.

At the end of the last day,
Our son, three years old,
Sleeps through the nerve shattering impact gun,
Exhausted in the shade of a hopper.
He doesn't seem to know that cement,
Strewn with metal shavings and
Balls of spent metal from welding on fans,
Is supposed to be uncomfortable.
He is wearied of the heat,
And no longer even wants to run the cement drill.

Trying Out Being On a Grain Bin Construction Crew

The Above Video

This video was posted by a young man who decided to try grain bin building. It shows some unusual angles of grain bin construction - shots from inside the bin, and the crew playing around between whiles. :-) When I saw this, I thought, "If they still have energy to play, the boss-man ain't makin' that crew work hard enough!" But at least it was a mainly positive experience for the young man.


© 2009 Joy At Home

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Comments 16 comments

Cris A profile image

Cris A 7 years ago from Manila, Philippines

What a great narrative poem. And the picture you posted above enhances the imagery and the action taking place. Thanks for sharing :D


Joy At Home profile image

Joy At Home 7 years ago from United States Author

Thanks for reading, Cris. While not something I would choose to repeat, this experience is among my greater memories. Thankfully, all the bins my husband and I have since put up have been new, and not provided quite the adventures...especially since we convinced the owner to order them in March or April, instead of July. :-)


Cris A profile image

Cris A 7 years ago from Manila, Philippines

That's nice to hear. So maybe you can write another, this time about the newer bins! :D


Christa Dovel profile image

Christa Dovel 7 years ago from The Rocky Mountains, North America

Reading that was exhausting! All the heat, grime, lifting, rattling and dust -- I can imagine it all too vividly for comfort. Thanks for bringing a of it here.


Joy At Home profile image

Joy At Home 7 years ago from United States Author

Thanks for reading, Christa, and you're welcome. I like making people think about things they normally wouldn't.


mythbuster profile image

mythbuster 7 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

Joy At Home - this is a great stuff!


Joy At Home profile image

Joy At Home 7 years ago from United States Author

Thanks for coming over, Mythbuster. Your reading means a lot to me.


Lgali profile image

Lgali 6 years ago

very nice poem


Joy At Home profile image

Joy At Home 6 years ago from United States Author

Thank you, Lgali.


Mrs. Obvious profile image

Mrs. Obvious 6 years ago from Northern California

a little piece of America that I will never get to experience except through your written word. Very vivid. I enjoyed the "experience" immensely.


Joy At Home profile image

Joy At Home 6 years ago from United States Author

Mrs. Obvious,

I'm glad I could give you a little taste of something different. I am continuously amazed at how this poem strikes people...to me, it was initially just something fun to write, something everyday, but I am learning it is so much more than my intentions made it.

Your visit made my evening sweet.


"Quill" 6 years ago

Morning Joy At Home...as I read I see the heart of North America being displayed here, how often we take our farmers for granted when we drive past grain bins, open fields, those lights working late into the night in the dark fields as we just drive by.

I encourage all to wave, hook your horn or simply stop with a cold bottle of water and say thank you Mr. Farmer for all you do for us.

Thank you for sharing your struggles and your blessing, hug that hubby today and thank him for his hard work from the "Quill House".

Many Blessings


Joy At Home profile image

Joy At Home 6 years ago from United States Author

Quill, Hubby has been hugged. :-D


topcop5673 4 years ago

I have a few older grain bins for sale great for chicken coops storage sheds etc, or even grain storage 507-995-9296 18 feet by 16 feet tall 3,300 bushels $500 each is what I been getting. 507-995-9296 can email or text pictures


Kevin Cady profile image

Kevin Cady 14 months ago

Great poem I have one left to sell Lamberton Minnesota sold 6 past two years smaller butler left steel floor make great shed gazebo $500 is what I been getting call 507-995-9296


Joy At Home profile image

Joy At Home 14 months ago from United States Author

Thanks for the compliment! I sure hope your bins sell satisfactorily.

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    Joy At Home profile image

    Joy At Home254 Followers
    45 Articles

    Joy worked in sheet metal construction for 7 years, alongside her husband - primarily working on pole barns, grain bins, and barn repairs.



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