On the Prairie: Bison and Grain Elevators

I spent part of the holidays in Illinois with my family. It was soggy, as anyone following US weather news might have guessed. We had clouds. We had rain. We had flooded roads. Still, there were a few beautiful afternoons and Christmas day was bright and clear.

Thomasville.

Thomasville.

On one of the clearing afternoons, coming back from an errand in a nearby town, I announced to my mother that I wanted to go see Thomasville. I don’t know about you, but there are places I’ve known of or driven by my entire life without ever visiting them. Mom responded that we could drive by the buffalo on the way.

Here come the calves...

Here come the calves…

We had a little trouble finding the buffalo, or bison as they would be more correctly called. My mother used to drive my niece by them when she was picking her up from school, and that being a number of years ago, she directed me down a few roads where there were no bison.

Bull and cow (partially hidden)

Bull and cow (partially hidden)

We found them, though, and were momentarily disappointed because they were at the back of their pasture. I doubt they are particularly biddable animals, but they were interested enough in us that they came forward to be photographed.

Have a look at that eye.  Very watchful.  This guy was about 6 feet at the shoulder.

Have a look at that eye. Very watchful. This guy was about 6 feet at the shoulder.

The bull came right up to the fence–and get a load of the fence: a good eight feet high and well electrified–and had a good look at us. I would have liked to get close and have a conversation, but the sturdiness and voltage of the fence gave me pause. (A friend whose family had a ranch in Idaho also once told me that they herded their bison with … pick up trucks. In spite of old western movies, even horses have better sense than to try changing direction of an animal twice their size.)

Thomasville, middle right.

Thomasville, middle right.

Having found and photographed and admired the bison, we moved on toward Thomasville. And having showed you what the fields look like in summer, I thought I would show what they look like after harvest.

We had beautiful light that day.

We had beautiful light that day.

Thomasville was visible in the distance, so it wasn’t hard to wend our way down the roads toward it. For the uninitiated, this structure is designed to store grain and decant it using gravity into a train car or a truck when said grain is sold. It is called an elevator because grain was loaded to upper floors of the structure via a device called a bucket elevator, which looks a bit like an escalator with buckets instead of steps. Grain can also be loaded onto cargo ships this way.

IMG_0208

The Thomasville elevator is still in use, though I don’t think the railroad tracks going by it are.

IMG_0214

I thought the place had a stark industrial beauty. It’s worn and a bit tatty, but the way it occupies the landscape is solid. Do you have any places in your neighborhood you’ve never visited? I have more of them here in Virginia. Maybe I’ll get cracking on plans to go see a few in the new year.

IMG_0202

This entry was posted in Local Pleasures and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to On the Prairie: Bison and Grain Elevators

  1. Sylvie G says:

    Thank you for taking me to this most interesting place. I usually do not like flat landscapes, but find your photos very inspiring πŸ™‚

    Like

  2. Eliza Waters says:

    The flat, expanded landscape is amazing to me (I’ve lived with hills all my life). I bet the stars at night are breath-taking!

    Liked by 1 person

    • arlingwoman says:

      It is breathtaking if you take time to see it. The stars are good there–you can see the milky way–but because it is humid, they aren’t nearly as clear as, say New Mexico’s…less atmosphere to shine through.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. As Eliza Waters says above, I have also lived with hills all my life, or in city canyons of tall buildings. The only time I’ve seen a vista of such distance was when driving through the Mojave Desert. I think I would particularly love that big sky. If you grew up there, it must be quite a change to be living where you do now!

    Liked by 1 person

    • arlingwoman says:

      I find that here I seek out a horizon–which sometimes can be hard to find, but not as much as you might think. The spaces are awe-inspiring, but people who live there are often inured to it. “The world stands out on either side/No wider than the heart is wide…”

      Like

  4. It’s a bit sad to see the bison behind a fence – but I suppose there is no alternative when the land is not theirs to roam freely. I shouldn’t like to meet up with one while strolling down a country road πŸ™‚ Aren’t their heads enormous – and that eye does look like its fixed on you in a most intent manner, I wonder what he was observing and thinking about.

    I can see it has been quite wet there, and I do love your straight country roads that look as though they go on forever! Here isn’t big enough for straight for too long πŸ™‚ I have localities here I drive past and have never visited – I always thought that when I retired I’d have time to do that – but nope! I shall make it an aim for this year, to visit one place I haven’t been before [I don’t want to aim too high πŸ˜€ ]

    Liked by 1 person

    • arlingwoman says:

      I too wondered what he was thinking. It was so interesting that they saw the car and just came walking up to the fence to have a look at us. There are free roaming herds in and around some of the national parks out west. These, I fear, are bred for their meat, which is popular for its flavor and low fat content.

      I think you should should make a schedule for visits to a few places. More than one! Say two! I will do the same in my locale…

      Like

      • We were eyed by elephants in the Victoria Zoo a few years back – same scenario. A young one raced up to meet the daughters and fixed his beady eye on us through the fence. His elders and betters ambled in a more stately manner and did the same. I felt we were really being assessed!

        I shall accept your challenge and make a schedule to visit two places before the worst of winter hits – June/July. Oh the pressure!!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m also fascinated by the open expanses of the prairies. Silicon Valley as you know is like a big bowl. We even have our own micro-climate thanks to the hills. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a Bison up close. They’re massive animals, aren’t they?

    Thanks for sharing your photos, Lisa.

    There are many areas that I’ve never explored. I’ll join you and Pauline and will make a point to explore two this year. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Like Sylvie, I am not a fan of flat, though Jackie is. Despite my wandering the streets of London, I rarely entered the iconic buildings, like the Houses of Parliament or Saint Paul’s Cathedral

    Liked by 1 person

    • arlingwoman says:

      Different landscapes need a different eye. I would need to learn to appreciate the Great Plains for instance. When last in London a friend and I arrived at St. Paul’s too late to get in because the Tube had been broken down. We didn’t attempt Parliament, though, as we assumed security would be similar to that at the U.S. Capitol. I did want to see St. Paul’s; alas, perhaps another time…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I agree with all! Such flatness! Such expansiveness! Like Pauline you’ve inspired me to go to a few local unvisited locales. Every day I drive past a road sign that points to Lake Papaitonga. I’ve never been there! I don’t have a clue what’s there! I’m going! And it’s only a couple of miles from the road sign!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Mary Tang says:

    Right you are; I think I will explore the back lanes of my suburb. I live in one of them and I know there are many others. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  9. KerryCan says:

    I have long lists of places I say I want to visit, in my region, but never actually take the time to go to. In the whole city of Montreal, I know exactly two places and they are the places tourists go. I’m excited for you that you took the plunge AND that you saw the bison. The rain elevator is majestic in its own right but it’s sooooooooo flat there!

    Like

  10. reocochran says:

    The glow on the fields of grain was beautiful in the photos. I appreciate your naming the farm building’s purpose. I live in Ohio that has contrasts in land, but have also driven up long, flat roads here. I am like you expressed open to differences in city versus country, and arid, dry temps versus damp and soggy. I have traveled around three states away or less for 14 years. Michigan has the U. P., the deepest blue water of Lake M., Cleveland has Lake Erie, Cincinnati has the river and small Amish or Mennonite farms have their charm, buggies and centuries old clothing.
    Wow, though about 25 mile radius there are 2 pretty waterfalls, farms, a log cabin made into a nice specialty shop, fireplace, lunch room and “big city” museums.

    Like

  11. arlingwoman says:

    Yes, it’s much more diverse than I’ve shown here, prairie having trees, upland and hills (though no hills in this part of Illinois). Had I taken pictures near the Illinois River, people might have thought it was a completely different place–high bluffs, rolling hills, woodland not taken over by endless corn crops. There’s something awe inspiring about the vista here that makes me want to show it. It may be living in a city for the past 35 years that makes me want to takes pictures of spaces. A couple years ago, I was flying over the Great Plains heading for Denver and it was so dry and brown and endless and treeless that I thought of Afghanistan. Luckily, I started a conversation with a Colorado native who used the term ‘grassland’ which gave me a different picture for a different season of birdlife and other animals and plants. Keep exploring nearby! There’s always something you haven’t seen!

    Liked by 1 person

    • reocochran says:

      I also know you have experienced and seen all sorts of landscapes, Lisa. I liked your suggesting to think of some of the flat, endless land as grasslands full of wildlife. I flew at night to Texas and missed the sights of the Midwest from a plane. Interesting and thought-provoking to compare to Afghanistan in appearance flying high above the great plains.
      Have you had many chances to wear the coat you had made for inclement weather? I remember looking at buttons but not sure where I would go to see if you posted yourself wearing it? Happy belated new year, Lisa.

      Like

  12. starkwe says:

    The bison reminded me of a time when I was very young that someone’s herd of bison got loose somewhere in Reston or Herndon when it was all farms. They caused a lot of trouble, and ended up being butchered. Giant had a lot of cheap buffalo meat for a while!

    Like

  13. Boomdeeadda says:

    Well now, I think your country drive and my country drive look an awful lot alike. I had no idea it was so flat in Illinois. What comes to mind when you mentioned seeing a place I drive by frequently is our Legislative Building. It’s quite majestic with a giant dome and all. Granite exterior and a fancy rotunda. I was there on a field trip in grade 5……err, that’d be 1971. Mr Taylor’s class. He was rather handsome I remember. A young man, Magnum PI looking, with a moustache. Jim and I have gone to the grounds on his lunch break in the summer to enjoy the gardens and water falls and giant trees. We’ll eat at a food truck on the way. They’re the big thing here. Gourmet Food Trucks are NOTHING like the days of yore. Anywho, one day I’d like a refresher tour since I don’t remember much.

    Enjoyed all your photo’s Lisa, good job of them! Buffalo are giant and intimidating. Did you get out of your vehicle to photograph that big bruiser? We have a Provincial Park not far from Edmonton called Elk Island. They’ve got a number of herds of buffalo there that are allowed to roam free. Again, I went on a field trip in grade school but not since then. Thank goodness for field trips or I have not seen anything, LOL Hugs K

    Like

    • arlingwoman says:

      I think I’m misrepresenting Illinois a bit. it’s quite rolling and hilly in the north and south and there are high bluffs along the Illinois River and other rivers. And of course, I’m not showing the wooded areas, which there are; I actually grew up on a wooded hill near a creek! Ah well, short of photographing the whole state…Oooh, I like this Elk Island place. I’d like to see some of these bison herds running around free, though not sure I’d like to round a corner on a trail and see one in the path. I did get out of my car and might have got close if not for the electrified fence and a certain respect for the size of the thing. I would have liked to commune a bit, as he seemed willing, but not knowing how tame they are kept me cautious. So the bison at Elk Island, are they on a big island, which keeps them from marauding around houses? Or do they just roam the prairies of Alberta at will? I do think you should go back for a tour of the Legislative Building. I scored a tour of the Old Naval Observatory from the State Department Historian today and it was really something! I’m going to try to write about it this weekend if I can get my notes and pic’s pulled together…Thanks for popping by!!!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s