Big Brutus, Or a Very Big Digger Tractor


The Kid has a passion for things that go.  Cars, trains, buses, construction equipment--if it has a motor, he's a fan.  Which is why, when we were in our hometown last week for the 4th, I decided that we just had to take him to Big Brutus.

Southeast Kansas, where both Sweet Husband and I grew up, was heavily strip mined in the late 1800's and early 1900's.  (It's a horribly environmentally destructive practice, but reams of paper have been written on that aspect so I'll say no more here.)  

Big Brutus was used for strip mining in the 1960's and 1970's, and is the second largest electric shovel ever built.  When it no longer made economic sense to continue to mine in that spot, it was left parked near West Mineral, Kansas, because it was deemed too expensive to move.  A little mining museum has sprung up around it.

When I was little, the highlight of visiting was climbing up--all 160 feet--to the top of the boom.  That part is no longer open, and I'll admit that my slightly-terrified-of-having-my-child-more-than-five-feet-off-the-ground mama heart was not disappointed by the closure.

Nonetheless, we drug the whole family out with us and clambered around inside the belly of the shovel.  The Kid had a minor melt down--it was getting close to nap time--but was eventually coaxed to sit in the driver's seat of "the very big digger tractor".  

Sitting there with him, it was hard to believe that there could be anything left of the surrounding fields and farms where a machine that big had once dug.  I don't know what it looked like before, of course, but it's remarkable how the land seems to have begun to fix itself.