The Vanishing Icon
What is a farm without a barn? Barns used to be essential to farm life. A place of refuge for the animals. A place of storage for feed, tools, and a variety of other necessities. A place to sit and listen to the rain on the tin roof. A place of mystery and adventure for the farm kid. A place to find new kittens, hunt eggs, milk the cows (or goats), and house baby lambs or calves.
Sadly, the American icon is vanishing. I took a look at the barns in our area, and found many in disrepair, or fallen into heaps of rotted wood and tin. In their place are new metal structures that often look like a giant carport simply to house tractors or rolls of hay.
(Correction to a previous blog: Daddy was drafted in 1943. I have his draft notice to prove it. But I always think of World War II as 1945 as that is when it ended and I just typed that year and then failed to notice when I did my proof). When my Dad got home from service in World War II, he used his savings to build a barn for the family farm. He and my grandfather built it by hand and it still stands today. It was used for milking the small herd of dairy cows, as well as a place to put the tractor, the tack for the mules, store hay, and provide shelter for the cows in time of storms. Greg did a painting of it in its original state before he did some restoration.
A few years back, Greg began to restore our barn. He left the original timbers, rafters and supports. Then he simply replaced the outside wood, and converted the milking shed into lambing pens. We have yet to replace the tin roof, which is held on “Southern style” by old tires and lots of prayer during storms. The old barn wood was used to panel my dining room, so I will always have a part of the barn of my youth with me.
When I was growing up, we had a cement dairy barn. Daddy also built this by hand, and I spent many hours in this barn helping with the milking. But my favorite was the old barn. I spent much of my childhood there playing with kittens, having adventures, and later in life just sitting with Daddy and listening to the rain on the tin roof.
I have always loved old barns. One of my favorites was one I saw every day on the way to work. The farmer was retired, but he had given over this barn for the amusement of the two rival schools in the area. I believe the story goes that it started as a prank, but became such a tradition that the farmer graciously gave in. The seniors were free to come and paint graffiti on his barn, provided it was acceptable for public viewing. This also gave the farmer a free paint job to protect and prolong the life of the barn. It was always fun to see who had been there from one week to the next. Messages, school colors, and small murals all appeared there and many graduates have a special place in their hearts for this old barn. When the farm sold, the new owner promptly tore the barn down, and it felt like a void had come to the heart of the community. A friend of mine posted a painting of this old barn on Facebook. The memory still lives on.
There are still a few family barns that have been around as long as ours and are very well cared for, such as the first picture. This barn has been there all my life, and my neighbors have always taken great care of it. A lot of the barns around here have rock work for the base, and are repaired on a regular basis. Seeing them as I drive by is like seeing old friends. Other barns have been neglected, and are falling into disrepair. It makes me sad. Once these barns were built with loving hands to be the backbone of the farm. They were cherished, and cared for, and often whitewashed to preserve the wood. I will leave you with a view of the barns in my area. My old friends that I acknowledge as I pass by on the road. May they continue to stand the test of time, and inspire generations to come.
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