The Rag Tag Daily Prompt word of the day for July 30 was “Quarry”.  Involved in other things I completely missed it till just now but, I must write about it today.

You see, my entire life, I lived within earth shaking distance of one of the largest limestone quarries in the world.  Yes…..this thing is so big people driving over I-80/294, a highway that bisects it, remark it’s like the Grand Canyon of Illinois.  The Thornton Quarry is beyond large it is  one and half miles long, half a mile wide and 450 feet deep at its lowest point. So large that Interstate Highway 80/294 is built over the middle of it rather than try to skirt it they built right through it.  I guess there was no way to avoid going through the middle.

Now as kids we could care less that the big hole in the ground near our home was considered famous.  To us it was just a huge hole where they made rocks.  No big deal.  It’s just rocks.  Right?   No big deal until 3:15 every afternoon when they would detonate their daily rock blast.  Our entire house, over 3 miles away, shook like the Banks house on Cherry Tree Lane in Mary Poppins.  Some days were worse than others but we knew when it was 3.15 every weekday, rain or shine, winter or summer, the quarry blast was dependable and always on time.

The “Quarry” to us was off limits.  NO one ever went into the quarry and NO one ever had stories about what happened down there.  In our simplistic minds what happened in the quarry was something similar to a Fred Flintstone cartoon.  In the 1960’s that was the only point of reference we could attach to the workings of a rock quarry.  Sure we stood on the side of the quarry road and looked longingly at the massive trucks and earth moving equipment in that gargantuan hole.  We boasted about what we’d do if we were ever allowed to go down into the quarry.

At the time there were no tours, no one I knew even knew someone that worked in the quarry.  It was sort of like Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory.  No one went in, no one worked there, and no one ever came out.  Sort of creepy.  The rock piles came and went and no one knew how.  Just happened.

Of course we lived in the neighboring town and it never occurred to us that maybe people that lived in Thornton worked there but certainly no one we knew worked there.

Well, this summer the village of Thornton had a “Touch a Truck” event.  This is a fabulous time for little ones to experience emergency vehicles without the stress of a real emergency.  The event was held in a park along the fence line for the quarry and rumor had it that a quarry truck would be in attendance.  My grandsons were in town and we knew this was something we HAD to do.

The boys had a great time climbing all over the fire truck, police car, garbage truck, tow truck, ambulance, dump truck complete with snow plow, ladder fire truck, and best of all……the quarry brought up a dump truck and front-end loader for the kiddos to see and experience.  These behemoths had to stay on quarry property due to their size; they cannot travel on local roads without damaging the roads.  So, there was a little bit of a walk from the other trucks but oh so worth the effort.

My boys were in awe.  There is no other way to describe the experience of standing in front of a 100,000 ton truck.  Yes, 100,000 tons empty.  Just imagine when it’s filled with limestone.  The tires are larger than any human and the truck stands about the size of a three story building.

So to the tiny town of Thornton, Illinois, thank you so much and please plan another Touch a Truck event next year.  To Lehigh Hanson, owners of the Thornton Quarry, thank you for the opportunity of a lifetime for my boys. What a great event!  This was one of the highlights of my grandsons’ visit this summer and I know they will remember it for a long time.


    • The Touch a Truck idea seems to be one that is spreading all over the country. I saw info on such an event in Maryland last year but we did not go. This one was truly spectacular with the quarry trucks….probably wouldn’t get to see them anywhere else.


  1. I’ve only been in the bottom of the quarry twice in my life. Once as part of a geology class at the community college. We went to dig fossils for about an hour and were not allowed to wander. The second time during the first ever “Quarry Day” about 25 years ago. Thrilling for someone living within blasting distance to actually see a blast.
    Yes, my grandsons are looking forward to another Touch A Truck event next year when they come to visit.


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