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About Grain Bin Building: A Construction Poem

Updated on April 9, 2020
Joy At Home profile image

Joy worked in construction for 7 years alongside her husband (25+ yrs. experience)—working on pole barns, grain bins, and barn repairs.

A World War Two Era Grain Bin, Like Those in the Story

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

A Tired Bin--July, 2006

The Tear-Down

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--but they never fit well,
Even when the bin was new.

Resurrection

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 hardly dig.
Up on hoppers the two bins will 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,
Who saved his nephew but lost himself.
Wheat devoured him, while workers stood by,
Helpless.

Onto Hoppers They Go

"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."

Almost There....

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.


Will These Get Their Turn?

I am at once pierced with happiness and grief whenever I see old grain bins.
I am at once pierced with happiness and grief whenever I see old grain bins.
These seem to doze, dreaming of long ago times when their homestead site was complete, and throve with the work of a family.
These seem to doze, dreaming of long ago times when their homestead site was complete, and throve with the work of a family.

Standing Beautifully, 2019

These bins still stand through

The Colorado Plains' weather,

Month in and month out,

Carrying a cargo of precious

Seed wheat

Into the future of farming.


They suffered troubles

At first,

Requiring surgery. . .

The careful insertion of stiffeners--

Steel ribs to hold them steady throughout each

Gestation of grain.

They look more comfortable now,

Smiling with the secret pride

Of mothers

Who willingly contribute to

A good future.


I am privileged to drive by them often.

The early morning light is eternally magical,

Glinting off their sides and glistening on the fields.

Sunflowers or wheat play in the breezes,

And I never tire of seeing the bins

So quiet.


My Plains are quiet.


So don't give me high rises

And the lights of nightlife. . .

Give me April or July mornings,

And Plains and wild geese and, above all,

The cathedral stillness of grain bins in the morning mist.

Jewels in the Mist

The two leftmost bins are our stalwart 1940's makes, standing strong.
The two leftmost bins are our stalwart 1940's makes, standing strong.
This gorgeous cluster of bins stands just across the road from the first row.
This gorgeous cluster of bins stands just across the road from the first row.
Plains culture and sunrise coincide.
Plains culture and sunrise coincide.

© 2009 Joilene Rasmussen

working

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