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Old Barns and the Stories They Tell - Part 2

Updated on April 30, 2019
Photo courtesy of Casey Carden
Photo courtesy of Casey Carden

Sometimes you leave me speechless old barn. Weathered and worn, you still lend yourself to the creative. Like other old barns, you speak of days gone by and yet you are different from the rest. When I first saw you, I was stunned by your stately chimney. As my hand moved over the stones, I thought about the strong hands and tired backs that gathered them from the field. Your boards have aged old barn but your chimney has withstood the winds and rain, the snows and - time. You begged to be seen without color old barn and I wondered why? Could it be that you wanted me to notice the trees and stones too? Was it because I found you in the dead of winter, when the trees around you had dropped their leaves in preparation for their winter sleep? Were you so selfless that you would forfeit your own colorful personality to make me really see the trees and stones. Or is this just another lesson for me in simplicity? Are you only trying to show me that there is beauty beyond what we see with our superficial vision?

Old barn, you are quite the teacher. You made me work for this lesson but I think I have it. We stripped away your color and discovered the courage of the trees standing bare against the elements. We stripped away your color and saw the strength and stamina of stones gathered and stacked one upon another, reaching towards the sky. We stripped away your color and found that you are so much more than what we see at a glance. Oh yes, you are a teacher.

Photo courtesy of Casey Carden
Photo courtesy of Casey Carden

What a picture perfect day to spend with you old barn. The play of shadows give color to your once red tin roof and pay compliment to the deep blue-green color of the mountain in your background. I notice that your foundation is crumbling and your roof, well, it has seen it's better days, hasn't it? But you are more than your crumbling foundation and weakened roof, aren't you old barn? Your frame is still strong. It will take many more storms to topple you, of that I am certain. Old barn, you stand alone in the field, appearing somewhat abandoned but, it isn't true is it? No, you still have purpose. Spring is almost here and soon the fields around you will be green again. You are the protector of the food, medicine, and tools needed to care for the herd that will soon be moved to greener pastures, aren't you? Perhaps you are the place where the farmer comes to think; wondering how to make ends meet in troubled times. I stand here looking at you from a distance and I hear you my friend. You remind me that my strength too comes from finding a bit of serenity in the chaos and having purpose. Duly noted!

Photo courtesy of Casey Carden
Photo courtesy of Casey Carden

Little barn, you hardly fit my definition of an old barn but you are lovely all the same. I started to ignore you since you were so small. But then I noticed it, the mirror image of you in the landscape. Did your creator know when they placed you there that one day the trees and shrubs would recreate your image? I am mesmerized by the magic of how you have lived so cooperatively in your habitat that it has mimicked you. Even the peak of your roof-line has become a part of the treeline where the window opens to the mountains and valleys on the other side. How picturesque you are, with the colors of Fall all around you and your open doorway inviting inquisitive visitors to see what is inside. Maybe another day.

Oh dear, my divine old barn, you are fading into the landscape: soon to disappear and become extinct. In your better days, they must have been so proud of you. When was it that they stopped caring for you? Was it when the tractor died or when the price of raising a herd became too high for them to continue? Did they lose the farm because they couldn't pay the mortgage or did they just get tired and move to the city? Did they take the easy way out and leave you to fend for yourself? Did the children grow up and the parents grow old? While they were living did they leave you to die? It must have made you sad when day after day you watched for them and they didn't come.

I can't change your future old barn. You are too far gone for anyone to save you from the inevitable. A few heavy rains or one strong gust of wind and you could be gone and we will not have the chance to talk again. You will return to the earth from which grew the trees that made you strong. But you will not be forgotten old barn. Your image has been captured by one who noticed you, standing there at the edge of the woods all alone. You will be remembered my friend, I promise.


This concludes my tribute to old barns. They have brought me immense and unexpected pleasure as they called to me from their place amid the landscape of hills and valleys, open fields and mountainsides. They are as much a part of our history as the soldiers who fought for our freedom. These old barns saw communities brought together to rebuild when fires destroyed them. Many provided a night of shelter for the lone traveler making his way to a better life or trying to get back home from the one that wasn't.

Old barns have shared many a story with me and I hope that in sharing them with you, you have seen them as I have - as story tellers. I hope you have been touched by those that shared with us stories of farming, of families, of the strength and courage of the human spirit. My journey to discover the beauty and stories of old barns will continue. It must. All too soon they will be gone, replaced with metal, pre-fabricated buildings that all look alike: buildings who have been brought in on a truck and dropped on the land. My love of old barns grew from an awareness that these diverse old structures were built from the land on which they stood. And to the land they will return. It is the circle of life.

© 2012 Linda Crist, All rights reserved.


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