A display in the corner of a tent at the Farm Progress Show caught my attention. The booth next to the display was manned by people from the Farm Service Agency, a USDA entity, but they were using the demonstration to both attract people to their area, and to educate farmers and farm families about the need for safety when working around flowing grain at the same time.
The display was simple. It was the mock top of a grain bin with an old-fashioned hay rope fastened inside. Whatever the rope was attached to was in turn connected to a digital display that measured how much force you exerted in an attempt to pull the rope up and out of the bin. The comparison was to what force it would take to pull someone out of grain if they were stuck in it.
Bill Field, Purdue University Extensions safety specialist, says that a person stuck in flowing grain can be submerged in a minute or less. By the time it reaches your waist, you may think you can get out, but the power of the grain is too strong. The pull is so much that you can't overcome it and push yourself out. Instead, if the flow continues, it pulls you under. Many people perish when trying to clear the blockage around an outlet to an auger in a bin. If they successfully break up the clog and the auger is running, they are pulled under, even if they have a rope or a walkie talkie device to summon help, or both. It happens too fast and the pull is so great it can dislodge a rope that's even tied to the ladder on the bin wall.
So how did I do on the rope pull? Not very well. Some middle school students were doing about as well as me. You wouldn't want to be trapped in a bin and depend upon me to save you!