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By Staff | Oct 28, 2011

Until last Wednesday, I was living on Fir Avenue. I am sure there are many places across the country with the pleasant sounding address of Fir Avenue, but the Fir Avenue I was most acquainted with is a gravel road.

Except for the time from 1965 to 1975, my life has always had a gravel road as an address.

The Fir Avenue I have lived on for the past 36 years was a typical gravel road, until 2004 when the ethanol plant was built on Fir Avenue. Then it was paved with concrete for almost a half mile linking with the state highway.

The concrete paving ended at the ethanol plant’s driveway and for the rest of the way north it remained a gravel road.

For the next quarter of a mile, to reach my driveway required driving on gravel.

Because of the ethanol plant, the traffic on Fir Avenue changed considerably both in number and the types of vehicles.

There is continuous truck, tractor and wagon traffic five days a week with much of it by farmers delivering their corn to the ethanol plant.

The sleepy railroad crossing at Fir Avenue, where I once saw a train go by usually twice a week, now has several trains a day.

Those trains that once creaked along at 20 or so miles per hour are traveling today at around 45 miles an hour with mainly tanker cars loaded with ethanol and hopper bottom cars with the grain left over from the distilling process.

Waiting at the railroad crossing on Fir Avenue, a person once heard the clackety-clack of the wheels of the railroad cars as they crossed the joints where the rails met.

Today, the rails have been improved with heavier seamless, or ribbon, rails and the trains now move by with a continuous sound.

The Fir Avenue I have known so well has had some big changes in the last seven years.

This brings us up to last Wednesday when Fir Avenue was the scene of another change.

Last Wednesday, the house that I have lived in since 1975 was placed on wheels and towed to the end of my driveway where it made a right turn on to Fir Avenue and then went north to the next intersection where it turned and went west.

One hour and two miles later, it turned off Eagle Avenue, another gravel road, into a driveway where it was placed next to a new foundation where, last Friday, it was lowered into place.

Good-bye Fir Avenue, it’s been fun.

Then on Sunday, Fir Avenue had another unusual group of travelers when my neighbor, Randy, made his annual cattle drive from his pasture to the east a few miles to his home west of me.

Randy does this every fall when the crops have been removed from the field and before the winter snow arrives.

Rather than use trucks and trailers to move the cattle, Randy and his horse-loving friends herd the cattle the old-fashioned way – from the saddle.

Some even dress in the cowboy tradition wearing their western hats and gear. It is quite a sight in farm country.

Randy’s cattle drive route included going across a recently harvested soybean field of ours. I waited with camera in hand to photograph the event and it was great fun to watch the cattle, horses, cowboys and cowgirls herd the cattle across the field where, when they reached Fir Avenue, made a turn south and herded the cattle down the road past the ethanol plant that Sunday morning.

I followed at a safe distance in my pickup and stayed with them for several miles photographing the entire time.

There were a few minutes where the cattle drive proceeded with the ethanol plant in the background.

It was a moment where the West and Midwest intersected, where the past of 150 years ago and life as we know it today existed at the same time.

Yet they both had a lot in common as cattle and the ethanol plant are both consumers of corn and this is corn country.

This all happened on a mostly gravel road known locally as Fir Avenue this past week.

Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net.

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