By Ronald Ahrens
The elevator at Bushland was the third of 10 Tillotson jobs I intended to visit in the Texas Panhandle. It was still midmorning when I hightailed it out of there, heading 58 miles north and a little west through the rolling scrub country of Potter, Oldham, and Hartley Counties.
The next destination was Hartley, a town of about 500 people where U.S. 385 meets U.S. 87. Tillotson Construction Co., of Omaha, built a twin-leg, 300,000-bushel elevator here in 1950.
Like several others that year–Rock Valley, Iowa; Burlington, Colo.; and Canyon, Tex., where I had been at sunrise–Hartley was built on the Bellwood, Neb., plan. This entailed eight tanks, or silos, measuring 20 feet in diameter and here reaching to 115 feet in height. (Bellwood itself had 120-foot silos.)
Schoolchildren were at recess as I drove through side streets looking for a good view of the elevator.
Arriving on the scene, I found a big operation. Of course I had recognized the Tillotson elevator’s curved headhouse. This elevator, as it turned out, has a substantial storage annex that likely more than doubles capacity. And there is a second concrete elevator onsite.
A pleasant surprise was the metal-clad wooden elevator that pre-dated everything else. Wooden elevators often went up in flames because of grain dust explosions, sparks from passing trains or short circuits. Finding one standing in good condition is a rare event.
Getting out of the truck with my camera, I chatted a bit with an employee and showed him my grandfather’s name on a manhole cover.
Then I looked around, finding the elevator in pretty nice shape after so many years. A previous logo on the headhouse had been covered up and replaced with simple lettering that said, “Dalhart Consumers, Hartley, Texas.”
My notes show that I also peeked into the office and met an employee named Yvette, who said they store corn, wheat, and milo.
The elevators in Canyon and Bushland, Tex., have more dramatic stories to tell. This one in Hartley merely keeps its head up and goes about its job every day.