An Honored Salute to The American Barn
Let’s Do Some Honest Talking About
a barn, which is an agricultural building normally on farms and used for various uses. In the North American area, a barn refers to structures that house livestock, including cattle and horses, as well as equipment and fodder, sometimes grain.As a result, the “term” barn is often qualified e.g. tobacco, dairy, sheep, and potato barn. In the British Isles, the term barn is restricted mainly to storage buildings for unthreshed cereals and fodder, the terms byre or shippon being applied to cow shelters, whereas horses are kept in buildings known as stables.In mainland Europe, however, barns were often part of integrated structures known as byre dwellings (or house barns in US literature). In addition, barns may be used for equipment storage, as a covered workplace, and for activities such as threshing.
This is the near-scientific, architecturally-designed definition of the barn, but there is also a much deeper meaning. I know, so so not scorn me, that barns not only helped to house, store and keep the treasured seeds, fertilizers, tools, and animals that the American farmer kept safe, but the barn had a double personality. The second image was that of the farmer’s children, and later, when the farmer and his wife retired, happy and peaceful from the work that the two had done over the course in their lives, they included their grandchildren who like their children, played homemade games, laughed so loudly, and talked of confidential secrets when the fireflies were swarming on a warm summer moon. The barn held all of their talks, plans, and sometimes, their pains, that in time, helped form their characters.
And While I Still Love
the old, almost-run down barns that I have seen in my general area of Marion County which is in northwest Alabama, near Hamilton, my hometown, I know that it would be so easy to trail-off from my original topic, barns, and just lay into the sub-topics: cattle, horses, sheep and cows along with the wagons, tools, and baled hay stored both in the hallway and in the barn loft. But I am going to be faithful to my subject of barns.
I will share an incident that my friend and I, Les Walters, whom I worked for many years ago at the Journal Record newspaper in Hamilton, Ala., where we had to drive to our printing plant in Haleyville, Ala., in nearby Winston County, Haleyville, to be exact (famous for the birth of the first 9-1-1 call) and our sister newspaper, the Northwest Alabamian where we had our paper to be printed each Wednesday evening and night.
On one of our mid-fall Wednesday trips to get our paper printed, I asked Les if he had taken a count of all of the run-down, deserted, and useless barns and he said no, he didn’t, and asked me why? I told him of an idea that I had rattling in my mind and Walters, being the most-analytical mind whom I had ever known, agreed that my idea would be a great project. Simply put. Either we together or I alone would devote a Saturday to get permission from each barn owner to take an outside and inside photo and devote one entire page in my book that dealt with that owner’s barn and I would write the barn owner’s name, his residence, and all of the relative information that I could get into two paragraphs leaving plenty of white space on the right-hand of the barn photo.
We talked it up for a long time, but we both knew that with our jobs and lives with our wives and activities, we could only “talk” about our project, just sit, plan, and drink black coffee while we talked. I still have the format design in my imagination and I may sound like a windbag, but it would have worked. If only for a coffee table book (e.g. “Kramer” in Seinfield episode) that people could enjoy while they waited for the doctor, dentist, or lawyer.
I Shall Never Forget
the very first time that I sneaked-away from our rural home when I was seven, in 1960, when times were really hard with my dad being the bread-winner and my mom pulling her weight as homemaker and me, I was the child since my older sister had married and moved out of the house.
One day, I had nothing better to do, than take a good look at the barn which stood within sight of our house and since my mom was busy, she would not have a chance to see where or what I was doing, so I headed for the barn and although it was wrong as it could be, I frankly enjoyed every stolen-minute of my very first barn visit.
I sat on my dad’s rubber tired wooden wagon (on the buck seat) while I shucked corn that dad had placed in the wagon and the first ear of corn that hit the ground, here came about six of mom’s chickens and they loved corn with a passion. So did dad’s humble and dedicated mule, “G.B.,” and she also joined in the corn-eating and all of my animal and fowl friends and I had one more great time while I was in the hall of dad’s barn. And the more I looked at each piece of lumber, I tried to hear a story that might have went with that piece of lumber, but I did not hear any audible voices. Just soft feelings toward the men who built this barn on such and such date.
My mom discovered that I had escaped and she yelled for me to get home. That moment was the saddest moment that I had tried to cope with. But I knew that she would not punish me because I was really having a great time and not really hurting anyone or our animals which included our dogs, “Frank,”and “Button,” who did come with me during my first escape. They did not eat any corn, but once they tried to catch chickens, but the chickens out-witted them and the dogs were so tired that they gave up.
From That Locale
we moved farther north outside of Hamilton, but still in Marion County, to a place where my dad was going to do some sharecropping at the new place and let me tell you how pretty this land was that he was to till and sow cotton, corn, and hay. But my heart was set on if there was a barn on the property. I soon found that I was right. Another barn which was great for housing “G.B.” the mule and the hay that my dad cut and hired a man to bale it and store it in the loft of the barn while I kept myself away from the work because dad was afraid that I might get hurt for being in the way. Still, I longed to climb on the wooden ladder that led to the barn loft, but did not use it . . .then, but I had planned to climb the ladder on a safer day.
The June and July days of 1960 went by slow as turtles on speed. I grew impatient just spending time in our yard which was in full-view of my mom while she was cooking or cleaning in the house. And I have always believed (but never told her) that I sensed that she was not afraid of me doing things, but she did fear of me venturing too far and when you are seven, a male, and in the rural part of the state, imaginations can run hog wild. Mine did on a few occasions, but nothing that I would tell in a therapist.
I did get a good long look at the barn where “G. B.” stayed and she had it made. Her stall was dry, with plenty of water and food, plus there was no door preventing her from roaming into the barnyard, so I had nothing but good thoughts about her being full and free—because I have always despised for anyone to keep any animal hostage claiming that the animal is dependent on the ignorant human being and the animal appreciates the rope or chain that holds them from running free. I am not a Rhodes Scholar, but I will go as far as if a cold-hearted person, man or woman, keeps any animal hostage for years, and the human does not get that wrong righted before death, and then after that, still no remorse, the punishment for this transgression is severely-painful because in the Book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, God made His animals first, then mankind. Think about it.
What Does This Have
to do with barns? One more thing. At my dad’s boss’ house, a Mrs. Vertie Dobbs, was the widow of a very successful dairy farmer and just plain farmer of cotton, corn, and hay and when he passed away, Dobbs, saw that she needed help with the work, so she contacted my dad and they made a deal about her sharing so much of the profit sold for the fall harvest with him and that way, we could stay in her rental home, buy food, and I would get to go to school.
A few times, I walked from that house to where my dad was working at Dobbs’ home and there in the background I saw the prettiest red barn that these young eyes had ever seen. My heart was beating so fast. I did get a good glimpse at the loft which had hay bursting out of the door near the hallway so whomever was in the loft could catch the hay bales that were hauled by trucks onto the person who stacked the bales into the loft so the hay would stay dry in the event of rain.
The rest of the barn was not that exciting for me. I walked around the barn one day while my dad was waiting for his pay, and I saw several machines with pipes and cords that scared me because they looked like some Science Fiction film, but my dad explained that Dobbs’ barn had once been a thriving Dairy Barn with at least 50 head of prime milk cows and she and her husband, Mr. Zolly Dobbs, sold the milk to Barber’s Milk Co., and other distributors and that was how they amassed their fortune. Work. Hard work and that is how that prosperity worked.
But I still had a love for barns even with the milking machines because I loved to watch my dad and another guy haul and stack hay and what was so wonderful was the fact at how the two men worked in unison and in total sync with each other and their hay-baling system worked like a charm.
I will tell you THE most-enjoyable thing that I found from inspecting old, run-down barns with tin roofs. I was standing in the hall of my dad’s barn on the place we lived where I escaped from my mom and sat in the rubber-tired wagon and fed the chickens, dogs, and “G.B.” And the rain hit one summer afternoon and I was almost hypnotized with each drop of rain that God had sent onto the Dobbs’ barn where we lived in her rental house and I can tell you that for me, this was THE most-excitement that I had ever felt.
I am 65 today and even if my wife and I had an old, run-down barn on our property, I would find the time to spend hours in the structure just to wait for a wonderful summer thunderstorm to come up and rain on the tip top.
Some pleasures although FREE, can also be considered as PRICELESS.
August 30, 2019____________________________________________________
Here's 10 Hours of Peace, Rest, and Relaxation
© 2019 Kenneth Avery