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Making memories at the elevator

A few years ago I wrote a blog series about dirt roads and the integral part they play in rural America. One of the roads I wrote about was the dirt road leading to the grain elevator.

Go to the edge of town in any small town anywhere in rural America, and you'll likely find an elevator. And it's far more than just a place to market grain.

If you're looking for a hot cup of coffee, it's almost a sure bet you'll find one there — and usually a cookie or doughnut to go with it. It's a place for ag producers to gather, share stories and compare notes. During the growing season it's a central source of information for soil temperatures, grain prices, precipitation amounts, new weeds that need to be controlled and the best way to handle them, and more.

In the off season, the building serves as a communications hub for the latest news in town. It also serves as a counseling center and a therapist's office. After we lost my husband's father almost 15 years ago, the elevator was a place for a young, scared farmer to find solace. It was a place of familiarity and a source of critical advice in the absence of an experienced partner.

This place also serves as a historical society. Recently some pictures were found in an old house that was being cleaned out in our town. Those pictures turned up at the elevator, where many of the people in them, some long since gone, were identified.

The elevator isn't just for farmers either. Some of the earliest memories my kids have are of the elevator in our town. They knew what the grain market was before they knew what a supermarket was.

My Farmer would take them for a ride-along when he was delivering wheat, and after about two trips, they would get bored. They would stay at the elevator while Dad returned for another load, and it wasn't until years later that I'd hear about the 'apples with salt' they shared with the secretary there or the clandestine cans of Mountain Dew the manager would sneak to them.

In fact, one of the first stops we made when we brought our son home from the hospital was at the elevator.  I remember the place emptying out — all occupants coming to peek through the window of the pickup at our new little bundle.

More than 50 million tons of wheat alone are produced every year in the U.S.

That wheat is made into the loaves of bread, boxes of cereal, Thanksgiving dinner rolls and scores of other products that grace our tables each and every day. Almost all of this abundance of food has one thing in common: a grain elevator on a little dirt road in Small Town USA.

Think about it. An elevator provides many needs and fills many roles in our rural communities. An elevator that tends to our nation's ag producers — those 2 percent working to supply the needs of 9 billion. And unobtrusively but undoubtedly, a simple grain elevator that weaves us all together in one worldwide cloth by serving as the humble starting place for one of our most basic human necessities.