Thursday, November 30, 2006

Before the Storm

In the warm glow of an afternoon sun, standing at a small place named Straw, MT, and knowing that it's all about to change... That's the calm before the storm, the last look at a nice summer day before it is overtaken by the fury of darkness that is quickly descending. The two silver elevators at Straw glow intensely, still lit by the sun, while the sky blackens behind them. The wind begins to rush, and the sun fades. Before the storm.

The old Milwaukee line from Harlowton to Lewistown used to be right here, just in front of those elevators. It was the link that pulled the grain harvests from Central Montana down to the east-west mainline. The little elevators spread out along those windy granger lines would ship their grain south through Straw to the bigger rail of the transcon line. Early on it was trains of boxcars carrying grain, then the days of yellow hopper cars. Cars that had, "America's Resourceful Railroad" emblazoned on their sides. It was the slogan for the late Milwaukee Road, and has clung on just like Straw, even though the years are wearing on.

When you come across one of the old yellow grain hoppers, which is probably more gray than yellow by now, with faded markings and graffiti, know that it came from here. Grain country, in the days before the storm.

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