The proliferation of trash turned to cash reality shows on television makes you afraid to throw away anything. Recently my son decided accumulation in our main service barn since 1968 needed thinning. Part of me applauded his enthusiasm and energy, the other wondered if something of great value might be hidden among worn-out tires, dried out fan belts for a long forgotten tractor, or odds and end bolts. So he started excavation of the barn, and I almost hoped some roaming picker might stop and offer thousands for soon discarded junk.
They say archeologists learn of the past from cultures trash piles. In the same strange way, I saw my son learning about his grandfather’s farming practices from the layers of debris and accumulated parts and pieces. He learned his grandfather and father never knew quite what they should discard. They maintained a penchant for worn refrigerators. The wall lined with a timeline of refrigerator colors. They stood as an appliance graveyard intended on storage. Belts housed in the freezer, filters in the refrigerator, and odd parts in the produce drawer seemed a terrific solution for an airtight storage. In theory yes, in practice, the parts, belts and filters took on the out of sight out of mind proposition. Then the hooks with the great purchase in 1979 of tractor belts that became dried out, and the tractor they were intended long sold off.
But ever hopeful that a model T Ford, a classic car, a refurbished two cylinder tractor got lost in the passage of time and willy-nilly scrap lumber and metal tossed into corners. Where I hoped they might find some long forgotten folk art treasure, they found empty paint cans. I waited with anticipation of a vintage bicycle in almost pristine condition, and they found a three speed bike from my college days; too old to fix, and too new for vintage. The only furniture that came out of the hidden recesses was an old Case Steel desk and a desk chair that kept generations of field mice happy.
The size of the barn, long debated began to take on dimensions forgotten since the first blueprint made its appearance. The son’s amazement grew with each load taken to recycling or the dump. Hidden corners stacked with lumber and scrap metal unfortunately didn’t hide a vintage vehicle or artistic treasure, but offered space. So much space, the daughter in-law managed to park her car in the barn for a change. Finally it reached the barn looked like a woman with a face lift; restored and rested. The refrigerators disappeared down to only the working models. The filters, belts, and parts found a new home, easily seen, not forgotten so soon. The workbench previously cluttered with discarded bolts and washers now could be used without chunking clutter to the side.. Now the barn is ready for another 40 years of farming and savings.
In the end we found no valuable assets, other than the scrap value of some of the refrigerators and metal. There were no treasured artifacts waiting for a museum, or vintage vehicles, other than the broken down lawn mower. Space reflected from every corner, where lumber and useable metal were stacked, easily accessible and recognized. The one valuable thing found was more sentimental than ready for a collector to write a big check, was a great grandfather’s old-fashioned scythe used years ago for cutting wheat. I guess some people’s barns are meant for finding treasurers, ours is for collecting stuff to be discarded in some distant time.
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