Farewell, Old Barn

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A friend of mine drove ninety minutes (one way!) after work on Tuesday evening to take her children among the cobwebs, through the stalls with the remnants of straw from livestock past and up the rickety old stairs into the hayloft of the aged barn where she played as a child. The kids are almost 5 and almost 3 years old and this mother wanted to give them the opportunity to get a good look, if in reality only a glimpse, at a building that holds many of her childhood memories. While there she will take pictures and turn back the clock to an hour long ago when the dust hung like fog in the sunlight streaming through haymow doors. Though these kids have been to this farm many times before, time is suddenly of the essence as the barn is in ill repair and scheduled to be torn down on Wednesday.

My own mother speaks fond memories of their barn on the family farm in Nebraska. She has no recollection of ever attending a circus as a child but realizes she must have because her two older sisters and she had rigged up their very own trapeze in the hayloft. She speaks of how they fearlessly shimmied along a two by four ledge to reach the suspended apparatus made out of what I can only imagine would be rope and a piece of pipe. Mom, who is now in her late 60s, even declares she got so that she could swing by her ankles and I can actually picture her doing so.

That very same barn where my mother played is where I also had occasion to play as a child. There were twelve of us cousins all born in four years’ time. My brother, my sister and I were from the city in South Dakota and the rest all lived within ten miles of that very barn in central Nebraska. It was a huge fascination for me to experience the sights and sounds of the farm though it was pretty much old hat for the locals.

In the bottom of that very barn was this old wooden sifting type machine. If you rocked the handle back and forth fast enough shoveling in some old straw and the dirt that accompanied it from the floor it made a terrible racket and about the best dust cloud that a nine year old could ever imagine producing. I don’t know what it was for, though I’m sure my husband, the antique farm machinery buff, would not only know its purpose but could tell you how it worked, who made them and what years they were made. I must make a point to remember to ask him and report back to you.

The cable was missing from the haymow pulley outside the upper doors that was used to allow bales of hay to be brought down gently from the loft. Someone probably took it off for safety’s sake. I’ll bet one of the adults around at that time did the math that twelve kids plus 30 foot of rope plus a 20-foot drop equaled trouble.

A huge, old German shepherd dog named Lucky who loved kids but hated grown ups was fixed with a log chain to the front of that barn. He, an assortment of barn kitties, the occasional field mouse and a plethora of birds made that barn their home. They were all the livestock I ever remember in that barn.

We ran every inch of that farmyard. Though the specifics are hazy, I do remember rope, swinging, jumping and wire-tied straw bales. Hide-and-go-seek, grain wagons full of corn that begged to be hiding places, BB guns, basketballs and boys against the girls. I can still hear the never-ending of the echoing threat to stay out of and away from the grain elevator.

Amazingly, to my recollection, no one ever really got hurt save for the occasional stepping on a nail somewhere, the stray (or ricochet) BB leaving a stinging welt, or a rope burn or two.

Grandpa has gone to his eternal reward, Grandma is in Good Sam in town, my uncle now farms the land, there are renters in the house, and the barn is all but unused and is, hence, unkempt and will, before long, give way to the elements. A piece of my childhood will become old barn wood to be used for country crafts, recycled into who knows what, hauled off or left to rot away like the granary before it.  

I feel sorry for anyone who does not have the opportunity to have a dusty old barn in their past. It is a rich heritage that I can feel, smell and taste as easily as I can close my eyes.

I’ll close the gate weaving tearful sentiment into the spinning of my yarn, to days gone by; to childhood memories; to the home you were: Farewell old barn.

Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult, I’m Nancy Kraayenhof. Share your comments, questions or ideas with me below or email me at Nancy861@msn.com.