Old School: Like tugging against the ocean

Troy Krause
Redwood Falls Gazette

As a kid growing up on a farm, there were certain tasks I did not like to do.

Upon reflection, the reality is there really were not very many tasks I did enjoy.

However, one that I particularly did not appreciate was shoveling grain, especially in the grain bin.

No, it had nothing to do with being safe. I know that my dad would never have put us in a dangerous situation.

I remember getting yelled at once (actually I think it was by my mom) about standing in the gravity wagon when the corn from the field was being unloaded and there was not that much in the wagon anymore.

So, if it wasn’t about being safe what was the reason why I hated going in the grain bin?

It was hard work.

For most of my life we only had one grain bin, and, to be honest, I think there are combine hoppers today that are bigger than that bin. Dad stored most of his grain in granaries, we were never allowed to go into them, or that lone grain bin, until it was deemed safe.

Yet, when we went in the work began, as we shoveled the final remnants of whatever corn and beans remained. We had to keep up with the auger (safely covered), because the last thing anyone wanted was to hear the grinding noise that came along with an empty auger as it ran.

I did appreciate it when gravity would work to our advantage, but did not like when corn would get in my shoes or when I would take a step and sink down to my knee (that was probably about as deep as it would get). In pulling my foot back up I noticed there was not a shoe there any more.

Then you just had to wait until it showed up, not slowing down the process.

Again, grain bin work was never appreciated by me, but I never remember ever having that feeling of not being safe while I worked.

Yes, I was aware of the dangers. (I saw the videos about PTO shafts in school and remember hearing the stories about people who died in grain bins.)

Over the years, I have attended farm safety programs for kids, and have even talked to people who have had that horrifying experience of being trapped in a grain bin.

Yet, for some reason, it never really hit me until this past Sunday at 7 p.m.

That night, thanks to the folks at Wood & Conn, I was able to watch a new movie called “Silo.” It depicts the story of a grain bin entrapment in fairly graphic detail. I will admit it hit me pretty hard to see what could happen.

I firmly believe this is a movie everyone who works in agriculture, especially those who are around grain bins on a regular basis, should absolutely see. I also think ag programs in schools should show this movie to all of their students.

One of the quotes in the movie really made me think. While I don’t think I have it exactly right, one of the characters who was in the bin and tried to help another who was stuck in the grain indicated as he tried to pull him out that it was “like tugging against the ocean.”

That is a tug of war you won’t ever win.

After the movie ended I sent an e-mail to Tim Gilk of Wood & Conn. (Thanks for your effort in making this possible, Tim.) In the e-mail I asked him about the local fire departments and the amount of equipment they have on hand to help in a situation like this. He told me that the departments in our area all have something that can help. (That made me feel a lot better.)

Today’s grain bins are not the same as they were 30 years ago when I was a kid on the farm. 

These ominous structures hold millions of bushels of grain, and thankfully there are lots of protocols as well as advances in technology in place that have helped to avoid accidents.

Yet, we all have read the news, have heard the horror stories and know even with all of the safety measures in place bad things can still happen.

One of the nuances that I really appreciated about this movie is the fact that, in a not so indirect way, as it dealt with this issue of grain bin safety, it also addressed some of the other realities of farm life.

Being a farmer is stressful to say the least, especially as the prices decline, the demands increase and the number of hours begin to pile up.

I don’t know any farmers who keep track of their hours. They work until the job is done, whether that means baling hay when it is 100 degrees, staying up with a cow in labor until 3 a.m. and then turning around an hour later and milking, sitting in the combine until the last acre is harvested especially when the threat of weather that could keep them out of the field for a while looms – all the while also maintaining roles as husbands and wives, moms and dads and caretakers for loved ones who spent their life doing the same thing for them.

I like to watch movies for entertainment, and I will often get frustrated when a movie I expected to enjoy offers some sort of “message.”

I did not enjoy “Silo.”

Yet, I will say that I appreciated it, and, if given the chance will watch it again – not for the entertainment value but for the realities that it offers about those people who are all around us that we call farmers.

If you have not seen this movie and you live in rural America, I believe this is a must.

You need to find a way to view this film.

I am convinced it will change your thinking.

It did for me.

To learn more about this movie and about finding a way to view it, visit its Web site at