Friday, April 5, 2019

Number One Silo, by Chris Beebe

In 1974 I bought the "Ortman Farm" situated on the northeast side of the now replaced, 1916 one lane steel-truss bridge called the Leedle's Mill bridge.   The Leedle's Grist Mill once stood on the west side of the bridge,  long since removed.
The Leedle's Grist Mill looking northeastward

The Leedle's Grist Mill, an earlier photograph showing the mill in operation

The Leedle's Mill Bridge, before it was razed in 2011

I got to know Mr. Ed Ortman and his wife Geaneyce who were living in one of the Cooksville red-brick homes, known as the Collins house, nearly across from the General store in Cooksville.   I had him out to the farm often as he tried helping/teaching me how to operate the water,  plumbing and ailing electrical system of the old house.  It did have indoor plumbing and facilities,  ... but just.

Ed told me he and his family ran an ice cream and sandwich Shop,  and operated the General Store for a spell in Cooksville.  
He also told me he had ten children with his wife who had since died.  Her name was Clara.  She must have been a wonderful woman,  and I often wished I had known her.     For years their kids would help stocking/prepping the store and serving customers after school.  It became quite a hang-out, he told me, ...  quite fondly I might add. 
The sandwich shop location is where John Julseth now lives, nearly across the street from their red brick, Collins house, or the second house north of the General Store.

For further information on the Ortman family including their snack-bar,  see the archives listed in the October, 2013 "Cooksville News."   Included in the article is a fine photo taken in 2011 of the Ortman children born in Cooksville.  Here is a link to the article :

It might have been 1995 when I was asked to do an appraisal of another car collection,  something I am used to and have done frequently.  This collection was different and required assistance due to it's size.  He said there might be 1 to 2 hundred vehicles in his many buildings and lots.

Matt Joseph,  a good friend and co-historian of automobiles,  and I tackled the job set out for us via the daughter of the man who, over many decades, collected the cars. I believe his name was Lloyd Smith.

After our first visit to his storage facilities near the intersection of Hwy 51 and Hwy 59, no/west of Janesville,  we were invited to a sit-down meal with the family so as to meet Mr Smith, the retired head of A.O. Smith Corp. 
The meal was lovely and the family gracious with their daughters, sons ( I think) and their children seated with us.   The talk eventually turned to his car collection and how far we had gotten that first day. 
We described the building number (there were many) and what highlights were seen in the first few structures.  Most were somewhat common sedans of little interest and value to the market or me, 1950's Plymouth,  Dodge and Chrysler cars. 
After the discussion waned and dessert was served,  I made a comment that I had one of his fine silage facilities on my property.  I told him it seemed like an unusual unit,  was of a shorter stature yet wide-based compared to most I had seen.  He inquired as to where I live.    I told him I lived just about one mile north of the village of Cooksville,  north and a bit west.

My old Dairy Barn and the very First Harvestore Silo
"Really !   That's my number one !", he exclaimed, showing some unexpected enthusiasm.   "I'll never forget number one !  I sold that Show-Silo to Ed Ortman,  who saw it and bought where it was displayed at the Wisconsin State Fair near Milwaukee.   That was in 1949.   When the show was over we disassembled it on the spot to show an audience how they are constructed. We invited folks to watch it be assembled in two weeks at the Ortman farm.  The parts and panels were transported by truck and trailer to his farm.  The concrete base was poured and we re-assembled it on that farm near the one-lane bridge crossing a fine river.  I remember going down off of the bridge for a swim to cool off after that silo was all finished. Was that the Badfish River?" ?
I told him it was actually titled the Badfish Creek.
He went on to say, "Some of my workers caught some beautiful trout down there,  one right off of that old bridge. That 'number one' was a high-moisture silo.  How is the unit working out for you?  What do you use it for ? "

I told him I had rented it out for years for high-moisture corn but no longer had electricity to it.   I had cleaned out the huge cavity a year earlier,  unsure of it's future use.   He showed such a spark of high spirit over the memory of his 'Number One' and setting it up in place with an audience watching.  That was a pleasant collection of memories for all of us to have heard.

Now,  these many years later I admittingly have had thoughts to make something else of the ol silo.  I have thought to make a sort of 'darkroom' or observatory into the heavens by modifying the roof so that a few panels would slide to a side, exposing the dark skies  as one looks upward.    I would then be able to use the fine telescope I have.  We have been losing the dark skies.  They have become lighter since the creation of the new and used car lots, Walmart, the restaurants, and fuel stations set into place west of Stoughton these past few years.

As it is,  'number one' stands empty, is cleaned out and at the ready for a fresh, new life.

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