I WISH MY MEMORIES of the old feed mill were imprinted upon the pages of a book. Indelible ink. Words recorded so that I would always remember. The smell. The sound. The sights. The everything encompassing this agricultural business in my southwestern Minnesota prairie town.
I recall so little—the wooden steps leading to the feed mill; the ground feed residue lingering in the air and on surfaces; the ever-deafening grinding noise of machinery chomping grain; handsome operator Wally Anderson with his shock of white hair who lived in a well-kept corner house several blocks north; and the summer a ventriloquist sat in front of Vesta’s feed mill with a dummy perched on his knee.
Those faint wisps of recollection filtered through my thoughts on Saturday as I meandered through an historic 1860 grist mill along the banks of the Cannon River in Morristown. Once a year this rural southeastern Minnesota community opens the mill for tours and grinds wheat and corn.
I won’t even pretend to understand all I viewed and photographed at this mill once powered by a waterwheel, later by electricity.
Initially, the mill opened in 1855 as a sawmill. But, within years, the business was replaced by Hershey Grist Mill, a mill for grinding grain into flour and livestock feed. On the afternoon I toured, a volunteer was grinding wheat into flour with the waterwheel powering the grinder. I had intended to buy a bag of the $2 wheat flour, but forgot in the midst of my photographic focus.
The Morristown Historical Society today cares for the facility which closed in the 1970s as the Morristown Feed Mill, purveyor of livestock feed. For those like me, who grew up on a farm but have long ago left the land, such endeavors to preserve the rural past are deeply appreciated.
While I walked the old wooden floor of the feed mill, descended stairs into the cluttered utility room where a dangerous conveyor belt cycled and afterward climbed stairs to the second floor, I reconnected with my rural roots.
And it may not have been in the way you most likely would expect. For me, the experience was mostly about the dust—knowing I needed to protect my camera from the fine grain dust which permeates a place like this, layers on the skin, hovers in the air, filters into memories.
FYI: As a side note, the mill sheltered several refugees from the U.S. – Dakota Conflict of 1862. Check back for more mill photos.
© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling