Old Faithful


On the southwest side of Chicago is the remnants of an old, forgotten industry that in its heyday, was the largest in the world. In 1865, following the Civil War, 9 railroad companies got together and bought a square mile of land in a marshy area of Chicago that was drained by small creek flowing into the South Branch of the Chicago River. After filling in the lower elevations and stabilizing the land, a huge stockyard was slowly erected to store and process livestock. The major meat packing companies built slaughterhouses nearby to take advantage of this concentrated natural resource known as protein. As cows, sheep and pigs piled into the pens, men were on the other side of the yards to deconstruct their physiques and turn them into saleable meals of meat. The industry grew immensely and in the late 1920’s, it employed nearly 44,000 humans and butchered about 18 million animals per year. The emerging markets from these stockyards gave Chicago its reputation as the Hog Capitol of the world and is responsible for the naming of their basketball team as the Chicago Bulls. This pre-EPA business used any means available at the time to dispose of its wastes. It pushed all entrails, blood and feces into that creek and over time a mass of microbes feeding on the nonstop supply of that organic pudding created gases that bubbled up from the depths of that creek. It was henceforth known as Bubbly Creek. Over time, the packing houses eliminated the middleman and bought the livestock directly from the breeders. The Chicago Stockyards fell victim to the wrecking ball in 1971. Not willing to lose its tourist attraction status, the city forefathers saw fit to build a combined deep tunnel sewer project. It collects excessive flows from heavy rains and discharges this mixed biological brown chili into Bubbly Creek to ensure that a fresh feedstock of raw sewage is available. Tourists won’t flock here if Bubbly Creek doesn’t bubble for children to stare at in amazement.

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