Former classmates team up on unique, challenging side project
Marv Jenson asked Grant Hanson (left) and Allen Braaten (right) if they could build a gazebo and attach it to the top of a silo at his farm near Kensington. The gazebo was assembled last year and installed last month. Photo by Rachel Barduson
Allen Braaten spoke with admiration as he watched his friend, Grant Hanson, secure the chains that would hoist the gazebo Braaten had built to the top of Marv Jenson’s silo. “That guy can do and fix anything. He’s an engineering genius. He’s just amazing. Look at him. He’s got this all figured out, how to get that gazebo to the top of that silo.” Allen marveled as he watched his friend climb and secure and crawl up and down a front-loader, and the gazebo roof, before a giant crane lifted the building to the top of the silo. On Dec. 9, a small audience braved the cool, blustery conditions to witness the gazebo being hoisted to the top of Jenson’s silo.
It was serious work, yet, the men joked about details.
“I showed him a small nut and bolt and said I was attaching a cable through a hole and using a nut and bolt like this to hold it all together, Hanson explained laughing as he held them in his hand.
The two “go back a long way, skipped school once or twice and got into typical boyhood mischief.” Grant and Allen laughed as they reminisced about earlier…younger days. They hold immense respect for each other. One is an engineer/mechanic/patented inventor. The other, a master carpenter. One is known as the Tractor Doctor and drives an old 1974 ambulance. The other drives an old white van and is known for his carpentry expertise. By both accounts, each thinks the other is a genius in his own right.
The two have achieved a complex project, and laughing, the two say, “Genius? That’s to be debated.” Challenging, yes. Rewarding in the end? Definitely.
A few years ago Grant was prompted by Marv Jenson to come up with a plan to put a gazebo on top of his silo. Jenson is a Kensington guy who is a classic car collector and holds “the record of the second-longest owner of a Mustang in the world.” (But, that’s another story…). Only in the middle of Minnesota could a telephone call come through the cyber-wires air-space with a request like this…“Could you build me a gazebo that I can put on top of my silo?”
As an engineer, Grant has invented and patented many ideas. He had never been approached with an idea like the one Marv Jenson proposed.
Grant was eager to take on the challenge, yet knew he would be calling many friends for input, design ideas and assistance in pulling off a feat of this magnitude. “I’m a metal man,” Grant explained. “I fix farm tractors for a living, and I’m a busy man, but this was something I thought would be fun.” So, the metal man’s wheels began to turn, and the first person he thought of calling was his old friend, Allen Braaten. Hanson and Braaten had collaborated a few years ago to design and build the Charlie Branch Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Starbuck.*
Braaten is a master carpenter, self-employed throughout his career, now semi-retired, but also more busy than he has ever been. Grant introduced Allen to Marv, discussing ideas for pulling off this unique and monumental project. The project began in June of this year.
Braaten came up with a basic octagonal building and surrounding deck plan for Marv Jenson’s gazebo-on-a-silo. Hanson would come up with the plan to engineer the project, design and build the elevator shaft to bring people up and down, design the emergency exit and roof access, and the plan to hoist, secure and use all the cables needed to “ground” the gazebo and ensure stability and safety once it was on top of the silo.
Yes, the bond of friendship would bond together a darn good plan.
Grant again reiterated about his childhood friend, “He’s a genius,” as he explained how Braaten designed the octagonal, (make that a 10-sided gazebo) roof into a mosque-like design. The octagonal gazebo has windows on all sides, has a ninth side with the door, and “the 10th side, you can’t see because of the elevator,” Braaten explained. “It really has 10 sides.” The “roof” of the gazebo is the original aluminum silo top, painstakingly taken apart and reattached.
Braaten explained, “I’ve been a builder all of my life, but this project had me thinking overtime. After scratching my head for about a week, I got busy. The 20-foot by 22-foot gazebo took most of my summer. The building began with the roof. I had different ideas and basically completed it with tongue-in-groove work, a vaulted ceiling, and all-around deck. It just kind of grew. I had no blueprint, and I would say we had to ad-lib as we went along.”
The building process continued through the summer. At one point Braaten had to put a canvas over his yard so he could work on the gazebo during the hot summer days. “Mind you, I had other smaller jobs to keep up with too. And, this is my semi-retirement. My ‘honey-do’ list was kind of put on hold,” he laughed.
Grant helped Allen with other summer tasks as the gazebo was built. “Allen has five acres of CRP that needed attention. I helped with whatever I could.” Grant explained. Both men had a very busy summer.
The partnership of Hanson and Braaten was keen to complete the project. Without an already strong friendship, it may have taken longer. In reminiscing about their friendship, Braaten referred to his friend, “I always knew him as Delbert. All of my life I thought his first name was Delbert. I still call him that.” Grant laughed, “Yeah, my mom named me Grant Delbert…but always called me by my middle name. Her plan was that I would be G. Delbert.”
For sure, from childhood on, the two men have been able to call each other “friend.” They both graduated from Alexandria Technical College in 1969, Hanson in diesel mechanics and Braaten from the carpentry program. Both have been self-employed and have made great careers out of their educational choices and ongoing experience. They both have amazing imaginations and have used their creative design in their careers. “I spent a lot of time several stories above the ground during my years of carpentry,” Braaten said. “Once this gazebo is on top of that silo, I plan to have a cocktail and enjoy the view from on top.”
The only remaining step is the installation of the elevator. The gazebo was designed to have lots of windows on three sides. The closed side of the gazebo is where the elevator will be installed to bring Marv and his friends up to the top and down again. Photo by Rachel Barduson
While Braaten built the gazebo, Hanson’s engineering prowess was at work. “We knew we had to ‘build up’ as we planned,” he explained. In simple terms, he said, “we basically had something that was the size of a good fish house, with no bottom.” Hanson also had to plan the leveling, hoisting, laying and anchoring pipes, and securing cables. Safety was priority. He contacted Riley Brothers Construction who he worked with in hoisting the gazebo to the top of the silo in December.
The finished gazebo was hoisted up the silo on Dec. 9. It was quite a day, and quite an experience to visually absorb. It was done so smoothly. The working men made it all look so easy, and once the gazebo was on top of the silo, Hanson was up there detaching the chains and cables that were hooked to Riley Brother’s crane. Up there…in the wind. On a ladder.
Jenson said the project, of course, is not complete. The elevator will be built and installed in the spring. As that particular part of the project is completed, Grant Hanson will surely be climbing up and down that silo more than once. Allen Braaten said he would not be climbing up and down. He’s happy to wait until the elevator is installed.
And now the cold Minnesota winter blows as a celebrated classic car owner, a diesel mechanic/engineer/patented inventor, and master carpenter look toward the sky at this latest feat of building and engineering genius…in the middle of Minnesota, the place they call home.
Home, a landscape dotted with farm groves, fields, groomed lawns, cattle grazing…lakes…and a silo with a gazebo on top of it.
*The Charlie Branch Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Starbuck was completed by Vietnam Veterans Post 235 in honor of Charlie Branch, a farm boy who was born and raised in Pope County. Both Grant Hanson and Allen Braaten were instrumental in the building and design of the memorial.