Wood salvage team nails niche

Doug clark article for the Spokesman-Review website. Originally ran Apr 29, 2010.

And now for the rest of the story. Thirty-thousand board feet worth of story, to be exact. That’s the amount of wood that Spokane’s Bruce Johnson figures came out of dismantling the 100-year-old grain elevator I wrote about back in November 2008. Ah, yes, I remember. The Leaning Tower of Presnell Road. That’s what I dubbed the Adams County landmark for its crazy tilt that resulted from two failed attempts to yank it down for salvaging... Read the rest of the article at

Adams County offers unique architecture

Doug clark article for the Spokesman-Review website. Originally ran Nov 13, 2008.

I'm a big fan of the hinterlands. Over the years I've prowled our Ingrown Empire with the fervor of a Magellan on meth. My explorations have taken me to places like Grand Coulee Dam, America's mammoth monument to higher electricity rates. I once bathed in the reputedly curative yet disgustingly slimy waters of Soap Lake. (Curative my butt. My head's still balder than an un-syruped sno-cone.)

Remember Wilbur's dubious outbreak of crop circles? I rushed to the stubble site to snicker up my sleeve. And so on Wednesday I headed west on yet another rustic adventure. I was off to view what passes for an amazing roadside attraction in Adams County...

The Leaning Tower of Presnell Road.

That's my name for the goliath antique wood silo that Bob Walli can't seem to knock over. "It's definitely drawing a lot of attention," said Walli, a 61-year-old wheat grower and owner of the old grain elevator, which is located about 15 miles south of Ritzville. "But we'd like to get it down and out."

Let me attempt to put the enormity of this building into scientific terms: It's freakin' HUGE!!!

Built nearly a century ago, the silo leans over the surrounding wheat field at what seems like an impossible angle. It looks like it could come crashing down at any second, the sight of which often stops motorists in their tracks. That's an illusion, however. This baby ain't going anywhere soon, which is Walli's problem.

Our silo saga started about a year ago. Walli was approached by a guy who was trying to make a buck by cannibalizing wood from some of the area's decrepit structures. Walli gave the man several jobs, one of which included the antique elevator. Sure, it is a semihistorical landmark. But, as Walli said, the silo hadn't operated since the late 1950s or early '60s. Since then its main function was as the county's largest birdhouse. So last April the salvager went to work with a tractor, some steel cable and a crew. The silo proved to be one ornery obstacle. Try as he might, all the salvager could do was to give the building its attention-getting lean. Walli said the man gave up because of health reasons and other issues. So last August, Walli decided to take matters into his own hands. He had a thick steel cable run through the top half of the silo and connected the ends to two muscular tractors.

Then the pulling began.

The cable ripped through some of the wood and then snapped like a rubber band. For those of you keeping score at home, that's Silo 2 – Humans 0. You've gotta hand it to the carpenters of yore. Noah's Ark couldn't have been built much better than this silo. Walli told me he has another salvaging expert waiting in the wings. Maybe three times will be the charm. As always, I did my best to toss sand into the gearbox. Walli, however, didn't seem overly amused by my "Beer and Dynamite Weekend" idea.

I enjoyed this look at life in the Adams County slow lane. It came via invitation from Warren Kragt, a Ritzville chiropractor and regular Clark column reader. Kragt rode out to the silo site, explaining farming techniques and varieties of wheat as we drove. I was especially impressed by what Kragt called "set aside" fields. These are apparently fields where the government pays the farmer up to $50 an acre for NOT growing wheat. Old MacDonald on the dole. Now that's the kind of farming a guy like me could get into.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432.
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