By Ronald Ahrens
Leaving the twin Tillotson and Mayer-Osborn elevators in Follett, Tex., I reached the Oklahoma border after nine miles. The wind blew hard, I could smell smoke from grassfires, and the desolation clamped down like a federal mandate.
The Welcome-to-Oklahoma sign was in tatters, having taken a few slugs.
Again, something my father used to say–“Miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles”–was apt for the situation.
Having visited 10 elevators in the Texas Panhandle, I was driving east and then south on Route 15 until it met U.S. 60. It was classic High Plains topography, but before meeting the U.S. route, the road surprised me by plunging into the valley of Wolf Creek.
Out of nowhere, the town of Shattuck and a towering grain elevator appeared.
I crossed the railroad tracks and turned left for a cursory look and quick photo. The bigger elevator, which I guessed to be a contemporary of the Tillotson and Mayer-Osborn elevators in Booker and Follett, Tex., had the most monstrous headhouse yet. It also had an outside double-driveway and a shed over the rail siding.
Inside the office of CGB Enterprises, Inc., they couldn’t tell me much but were as friendly as could be despite my interrupting at lunch time.
Here’s an interesting coincidence showing how nowhere can be connected to everywhere: Just three weeks before, CGB’s eponymous subsidiary, Consolidated Grain & Barge Co., had bought four elevators in the Mississippi Delta from The Scoular Company, of Omaha.
Later, one of the workers took a photo of a manhole cover and they texted it to me, but it only bore the name of the foundry. Later I would hear the Shattuck elevator was built by Sampson & Fisher. Whether that’s definitive, I don’t know.
Altogether, on the route I’d chosen, Orienta, my next destination, was still 90 minutes off.
At one town along the way, I stopped in a minimarket for a corndog and was buttonholed by a poor lonely woman–who was buying cigarettes and had already bent the ear of the cashier and another customer–talk about her well-educated aunts and uncles.
Yes, one of those “conversations” in which someone needs another person to talk to, but I didn’t want to make eye contact lest I spend another 20 minutes hearing about her life.
Maybe I should have hung in there and listened to the whole story, but I got back in the truck and took off. There were four more elevators to visit; my main quest for the afternoon was Goltry, where Tillotson Construction Co. built its first elevator of reinforced concrete in 1939.