Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pieces of a Story


 Just about 1265 miles from the bustling Union Station, Chicago the middle of Montana reveals a few more pieces of a story.  This is Roundup, a town named for yearly cattle roundups from the surrounding ranch lands. 

The Miles City Mercantile outpost still stands in Roundup.  Like so much old industry, the Mercantile was built to last and stands straight and level throughout.  The company was founded in 1916, soon after the Milwaukee traversed these parts.  As a company, its present status is listed as 'inactive' but  memories from a few employees interviewed over the years shed a bit of light on the old company and its breadth [1].  The mercantile had locations in many of the Milwaukee towns that dotted the Central Montana plains.  Towns like Winnett,  Grass Range, Roundup and others.  The times were different: where wild grasses grow today, boxcars were spotted on steel rails that represented a figurative and literal unbroken connection sea to sea.  "Men of the road" were hobos that stood on the back platforms looking for dented cans and other handouts from gracious employees. 
 

Other old industry stands by in Roundup as well.  The once ubiquitous wooden grain elevator is disappearing across the West and Midwest - but a few ghosts like the one above still stand looking out across the land they have scoured for decades.  The gaping windows, broken ladders, and missing rails all speak to the same story and provide their own chapters to to this tale of what happened those many years ago.  It's a story that's as seemingly large as the state through which we currently traverse, with players that extend well beyond the old railroad itself.

[1]  Roundup Record-Tribune & Winnett Times - Jul 26, 2006

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