Descriptive Essay

Reid Rosen

Fundamentals of Journalism


Sioux City Stockyards

I came to a park as close as I could to the red and white John Morrell plant. The private property sign warned me was bright yellow with the picture of a camera on it. The sign didn’t serve a purpose now that the plant was closed. Behind me are Railway Cars and beside it are wheels lying in a pile, they are also rusty and are a reminder of how the stockyards were created, through the railroad. You could hear the cars on the highway as they passed by but not a sound was heard from anything else not a hog or cow or worker that would have been bustling around only twenty years earlier. There was only two semi-trailers parked out front and I saw no one walking around the plant. The parking lot was large, big enough to fit over a hundred cars and now was empty. The field beside the plant was not kept and had lumps and was tall, 6 inches in most parts. The vents on top of the building were rusted and so were much of the cooling units on the roof. Rust is a common color; the old railroad bridge in the distance complemented the colors of the abandoned John Morrell plant.  A fence surrounds the plant premise. It was silver, with barbed wire across the top. It was falling over though and leaned every which way, it looks as tired as the plant does. There is not much life at the yards now, I can make out people in the home depot in the distance and can see cars coming in and out of the store. There are two other buildings behind me but I don’t see anyone coming or going. I had been to a hog processing plant before and I recognized the shoots in which trucks would unload pigs into the plant. Even from a distance I could see the cement is cracked and the bumpers along the wall are worn from trucks coming and going. I look up and see that the sky is gray even at 7 in the afternoon, but the sense that even with the sun out the plant would still look worn out.

The Stockyards and the John Morrell plant played a profound role in Sioux City’s history.  James Booge started off the success of the stockyards by opening the first hog plant in 1858. It was a major success due to the Missouri River, which was just over the highway and the Railroads. At Sioux City’s peak it was comparable to the Union Stock Yards in Chicago, Omaha and Kansas City.  The John Morrell plant had been built in 1957 for Iowa Dressed Pork. John Morrell bought the plant in 1993. With its closing in April some 1,500 employees had been let go. The amazing thing about the stockyards is what sheer size it had been, to now only being an open lot with a Home depot, some small businesses, and a strip club.

My black shoes had stepped into the puddle which had shown up since my last visit. It was dreary out, and 12 in the afternoon. The yards had more life then when I was here last and I noticed the new workings of the yards. The John Morrell plant had several cars now parked around it and several people with yellow hard hats were coming and going from the front exit facing the East. I heard a churn of what sounded like a Venting system on top of the building. The John Morrell Sign on the side of the building says “Making a Difference.” There is a large metal wall separating the highway and the plants. It was put up to separate anyone driving from the view of the stockyards, back when there was a stockyard.