Tillotson’s Bushland, Tex., elevator was the scene of a scary, non-fatal fall in 1950


Besides yesterday’s story about getting off-level when building the Bushland, Tex., elevator in 1950, the late Niel Lieb supplied another one that illustrates how dangerous elevator construction could be. 

Texas-Okla Logo 04I recalled it during my road trip when approaching the 252,000-bushel Bushland elevator that gleamed in the midmorning Monday sun. A second one on the site looked a little tattered in comparison to the classic Tillotson with its fine curved headhouse.

Lettering on the east side’s upper-middle part proclaimed, “Welcome to Bushland, Home of the Falcons.” The Class of 2010 was responsible.

IMG_8923But the drama of the elevator’s construction might have eluded the Class of 2010.

“Every job had a peculiarity,” Lieb said.

“The guy in Bushland jumped off the top. He started to fall, so he jumped. He jumped out far enough to land on the sand pile. We were probably 40 to 50 feet [above ground on the slipform]. He landed on the side of the sand pile and slid to the bottom.

We said, “How you doing?”

He said, “Oh, I’m fine. I’ll be a little stiff and sore.”

“There were seven guys that I worked with. Baker was one and Bill Russell. All of ’em fell or got killed somewhere along the line.

“When you’re working in the air, you become careless because it’s like walking on the ground, but you’re not walking on the ground.”

IMG_8911Indeed, we can hardly count the human cost to building an elevator, or any tall structure, in the early and middle decades of the 20th century.

Sometime afterward, we figured out more specifics about safety procedures and equipment.

At last I drove onto the grounds. The elevator was open. Chalk up another score for me–the second elevator in a row I could enter and inspect. No one seemed to notice me even though the Ag Producers Co-op office was just to the north.

Admitting myself, I went in and out through open doorways and up and down stairs. Not only was the elevator well painted outside, but it was meticulously clean inside.

Sports arenas and shopping centers go up with much acclaim but sometimes are torn down before 68 years go by. But the Tillotson elevator in Bushland was fit and trim.

As the grandson of builder Reginald Tillotson, I felt pride in his work and gratitude to the owners who have kept it so well.

Tomorrow, a meeting with a co-op executive.


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