Not Just a Hayloft to Me
A hayloft was not just a hayloft to me growing up. We had a nice sized, old barn on our farm. Half of the wooden barn held hay bales above the few pig pens and the milk parlor. Bags of feed were stored in the aisle between the stalls.
A tall wooden ladder reached to the top of the hay mow. The other side of the barn held the straw bales. Some were stored up in the loft and some down below in the section that used to house the baby calves. There were grain bins behind the calf section.
To reach the straw mow you had to climb up the bales or climb the hay mow ladder, then walk across the beam along the side of the barn to reach the other side. No rails, nothing to hang onto.
Chores Always Had to Be Done First
We could fetch the straw bales. Dad wouldn’t let us get the hay until we were older, because it was too expensive to waste if we accidentally broke a bale. Plus the straw was lighter for skinny young-uns.
We would climb up to where we could reach a bale on the top row and pull it out and toss it down on the barn floor below. Dad would then use a hay hook and carry it to the stalls or the pig pen. He’d cut the strings neatly with his jackknife and always saved the binder twine (the strings around the bales).
Another job was to fill the water trough for the cows. A pipe ran from a pump that pumped water from a sulfur well by the milkhouse. Sulfur water has a distinct taste and smell, but I thought it tasted pretty good when it was cold. We had to turn the switch on and prime the pump with a partial bucket of water to get the water going and then turn the switch off when the trough was full. Heaven help us if we got busy playing and forgot to turn it off and the water spilled in the barnyard!
Playing in the Loft
My sister, Sherry, and I played in the barn about every day. Just climbing around the mows and sticking our heads out of the windows was fun. Crawling or walking on the big beams was fun and daring. I distinctly remember the day when I finally walked across the beam from one loft to the other without hanging onto the wall. I was brave at last! No hands!
Spying out of the knotholes in the wood walls was fun, too. We'd peek at the baby pigs. We'd check on the house for when Mom would call us for dinner. We'd look out for the approaching weather. We'd watch for our friends riding their bikes over to visit. Lots of snippets of life can be seen looking through a knothole.
Filling the Barn
There were plenty of strong boys in the neighborhood who would help stack the hay and straw at baling time, unload it from the wagons to the elevator, then stack it neatly in the hayloft. On good years, it would stack clear to the ceiling.
One of my favorite books growing up was "Lassie and The Secret of the Summer." In the book, Jeff finds an old, junk phonograph and old records stored away in the barn. They end up playing a huge role in the story.
What he really wants is a brand new record player (no ipods back then). The story teaches some good lessons for kids about working and saving for something instead of instant gratification. In the end, Jeff finds out what's more important than a new record player.
My sister and I searched our barn for any old treasures that might change our lives. It was fun looking, but I don't remember finding anything worthwhile! We did find some critters now and then.
Critters in the Barn, Besides the Cows
Our barn cats would have kittens in the holes between the hay bales where it would be warm and soft and dark for the babies. We loved following the mother cats to see where they hid their kittens. We usually had striped gray cats, but would be so happy with the occasional calico.
The cats got a saucer of fresh milk at every milking time. They paid for their food and their warm bed by keeping the mice away from the cow feed and the grain bins, and by purring against my dad’s leg as he milked the cows.
One good mamma cat would sit patiently still by the last cow in the stall. Before hooking up the milker on that last cow, my dad would first give the cat some squirts of fresh milk straight from the teat. Lucky cat! The rest of the cats had to use the saucer.
A few times we would have an owl living in the barn. It would nest on a high beam and fly in and out of the barn window. I always thought an owl was good luck. Dad didn’t always think so if it made a mess. I remember finding an owl pellet (complete with a full skeleton of the mouse he'd had for supper).
Having an owl was better than having bats in the barn! We did have bats fly at night by our yard quite often, but they stayed in a tree near the woods or in a neighbor’s barn.
Other Fun in the Hayloft
We made our own ropes out of braided binder twine and swung from the ropes and jumped in the straw.
When enough bales were thrown down, we would have room for our favorite pastime. We would make tunnels and forts out of the bales, stacking them to form walls and ceilings. I don’t think we ever just made a “house”. We dreamed big. Such great fun was had making “secret” passageways and dungeons and drawbridges and towers. We had haunted houses and spooky ghost towns. We had cabins on the frontier. We had mansions in the Civil War. We hid slaves in the underground railroad. We flew flags over the Alamo.
We would use shelled corn cobs as “bullets” or “arrows”. We fought cowboys and Indians, dragons and knights, armies and spies, and all kinds of monsters. We bombed the Nazis. We defended Pearl Harbor. We rescued princesses. We flew to the moon. All of that, in the hay loft.
As you can see, the hayloft was not just a hayloft. It was our playground. It was a huge part of our lives growing up on a farm.
Other Hubs by this Author
- Games We Played Growing Up On A Farm
An old fashioned game of Eenie Aye Over is remembered as enjoyed by children growing up on a farm. One variation uses a Super Ball.
- We Made Fun From Junk
Growing up on a farm, we made our own fun. We used junk to make our toys.
- Alligator Sanctuary in Michigan
Find out more about this educational haven for reptiles. You don't have to go to Florida to hold an alligator.