LEON COUNTRY ELEVATOR, Wash. — People on the Palouse have been talking about Tony Egland for nearly four decades. His standout play on basketball courts in Genesee, Carroll College in Helena, Mont., and even Luxembourg has made him a well-known commodity.
Now, the commodity most associated with Egland is grain and garbanzos.
The 56-year-old Genesee resident has spent 30 years in the farming business and has worked for the Uniontown Co-Op Association, where, for much of the past five years, he has spent much of the year at the seed plant.
Since 2016, when harvest time comes around, he’s the lone warehouseman at the Leon Country Elevator. Much like his two years playing professional basketball in Luxembourg, he’s on his own.
“One of the things out here is, when you’re alone, you got to be able to deal with it,” he said. “You can’t worry about it.”
Egland spends more than 12 hours a day, often seven days a week in August, running the grain elevator in Leon during harvest.
The tiny terminal just a stone’s throw west of the border with the Gem State holds roughly 164,000 bushels of grain. The elevator serves approximately 12 area farms, which often reserve their days to use it in advance.
Egland does it alone: the scales, the sample taking, the drop-offs, the pickups, the sweeping and the storing.
“It’s lonely sometimes,” he said. “I mean, you’re just stuck. You’re waiting for one truck in six hours.”
However, Egland passes the time reading the newspaper or a book about Sitting Bull or talking on the phone with his two daughters, Taylor, 26, and Amanda, 20.
The seclusion doesn’t really bother him. He sees the job as more of a source of independence than isolation.
“There’s an old saying: ‘When you want something done, ask a busy man,’ ” Egland explained. “Because he’s already working, and his brain is already clicking, so when you lay something else on it, he’ll just take it.”
Two weeks ago, the elevator was nearly full, but stress was never visible on any part of Egland’s lean, 6-foot-7-inch frame.
Whenever a truck pulled in, his face lit up because chances are good, it’s someone he has known for years.
“The people make it special,” he said. “The people (who) are out here, the farmers are very helpful, cooperative and patient.”
Andy Krick, a farmer from Genesee whose older brothers played sports with Egland, swung his truck into Leon to unload winter wheat, and the two worked side by side for the 10-minute drop-off. They shared a few laughs, then went on with their day, knowing they would repeat the process a few more times throughout the afternoon.
His time hooping in the Old World allowed him to see things he would have never imagined while growing up on a farm in Genesee.
But back home among the rolling amber hills of the Palouse is exactly where he wants to be.“At heart, I’ve always been a country boy,” he said. Then he chuckled and added, “You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.”
The old adage has never been more true than for Egland. He’s as much of a fixture on the Palouse as the garbs and the grain he stores in Leon.
Pete Caster is the Tribune’s photo editor. He may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 848-2210. Find him on Twitter @pete_caster.