Prairie Sentinels

It's hard not to notice them, they stand out like sentinels on the flat prairie, a beacon to farmers, to residents and visitors alike.

They are a meeting place for local farmers and a hub of information. Business deals are done at the shake of a hand, or a pat on the shoulder, and a promise to be out at a particular field to help the following morning.

Morning coffee time is quite often earlier than what you and I are use to. There’s work to be done and as long as there’s light, there’s work. 

There is a good chance that you will find a number of farmers congregating at the grain elevators early in the morning, just about the time the sun is creeping up over the horizon. 

It’s an opportunity to exchange news, stories and make plans for the day or week. Priorities and schedules are discussed, maybe the latest grain prices are hotly debated, and equipment and manpower availability are sorted out. 

There’s probably a few other topics discussed as well, these are families we are talking about, so a marriage, death, and birth are sure to enter into the discussion.

There was a time when you could measure a communities prosperity by the number of grain elevators that were nearby.

They were part of the community, your neighbour worked there, and they had a direct line into the community. If you wanted to know something, or get the word out, just stop by the elevator and talk to your neighbour or friend who worked there. It was a hub of commerce and local gossip or information, depending on how you looked at it.

Things are done a little differently now, the grain elevators are still there, but often they aren’t a beacon for a community, and can’t be spotted by standing on Main street.

Most likely they are situated near a main road, or secondary highway, always on a rail line and don’t have a communities name printed on the side of them.

For the sake of efficiency and cost, they generally service a larger area and employ fewer people. Decisions on how they are run and who runs them are generally made by head office. The ‘who’ is most likely the name that sits high up on the side of the elevator silos, and doesn’t reflect any association to a nearby community.

For those of you who have fond memories of what the grain elevators were like when you were a kid, or a young farmer trying to make a go of it, try to keep those memories alive by sharing them, or writing them down.

Remember, memories fade with time.  These prairie sentinels are a reminder of a bygone age, when we were kids, parents or just visitors who were lucky enough to share a moment in time.