One of My Childhood Stories About Me, Myself, and Gramps' Barn
What do you know about hay lofts? What do you know about barns? They coincide rather well. Never a cross word. Always receptive to souls young, old, zippy and feeble. But before facts, fantasy, and questions that cannot be answered, there lies a mild controversy inside this piece. You notice that I used the evolved barn loft that is now a hay loft. The reason? Folks who used these multi-purpose building(s) (barns) were master builders from the first wooden peg to the last wooden shingle. These pioneer farmers were not of talkative people. They knew that five words worked when (some) might waste their time (the farmers) by using 10. Precision is the best view that I can give you about these noble, hard-working pioneer souls.
So when the idea of building a barn came on the horizon, these folks did not waste time. They went at it from sun-up to sundown with minimal breaks for rest and lunch. Most of these hard working Americans owned horses, mules, cows, and other livestock, they naturally built barns to showcase their ingenuity. Barns took care of storing what farming tools were not being used. Horses, mules, and cows were put into separate stalls to shelter them from the elements, and with livestock came hay for growing to feed these animals to plow fields and thus make money for our early pioneer forefathers.
And these sharp-minded men did not have to stand around and wonder where their hay would be stored? In the barn loft, of course. And there it was. One of America's earliest multi-use structure. But as time went by and evolution was born, latter farming Americans just started calling a barn loft a hay loft. Made sense. If corn had been stored in their lofts, corn lofts would be what these people said during discussions with friends.
As usual, my terribly bad habit of sharing my topic's headline with a plethora of words normally leads me to right now. And what I want to talk to you about: Hay lofts, but I am good with barn lofts. This is how these unique places were described in many of the old wooden barns that used to show the beautiful aerial patterns to show the farming landscapes in our country.
Fact 1: I love barns. I love barn lofts. There we have again, a unique relationship married by mortal men. (e.g. "What America Needs is a Good Ice Cream Cone" hub) and I cannot give you one sensible reason why a barn and a barn loft shouldn't be used as a dual-purpose building. It's only wise. You don't need to labor yourself (unless you want to) to build two separate buildings--one for a barn and another barn-type building used for storing livestock and other farming-related items.
Fact 2: Personally, I have either hidden, played, or just sat idly in two vintage barns in my early life. One belonged to the window, Mrs. Verta Dobbs, who my dad sharecropped her hay, corn, and cotton. And in her case, she had two barns: a regular farming barn to store hay, farming implements and storing the Ford tractor that my dad used sometimes six days a week. She also owned a long dairy barn when she and her now-late husband, Zollie, ran a lucrative dairy farm once upon a time in the early 1950s. The other barn was just a barn. It sad on the rented land (and house) where my dad's parents and sister who never married lived. Mr. and Mrs. James Avery and Ludenne.
From the first morning when my parents (who both worked out of town) would make me stay with these people to either board my school bus or get off of my school bus the next evening or stay with them during (what I really wanted, but didn't get) the three-month summer vacation from school. My summer vacation from school was everything but fun. It was pure drudgery. I hated every minute that I was made to stay with these three people who never tried to grow out of their 1930s ways of life. Times change. I said this more than once and to their faces. They only smirked. I gave up. But when I would look at their vintage wooden barn, I was in love. Instantly. There it was. My safe haven and easy place to find myself. Not pester any of these three old timers, just sit and think about life and what my reason was for being born. I am still wondering about that one.
Unless you have lived on a farm with a barn or just paid a summer vacation visit to your good-hearted grandparents, cousins, or just good neighbors who owned a barn . . .let me shake your hand buy you a steak dinner with all of the trimmings. Let's meet someday in Manhattan and we will find the most economical steak restaurant in New York City--and I will buy you this steak dinner and pay for it from saving up my cash since writing this hub.
You are not an ignorant person. You are a citizen of light living in the prosperous U.S.A. in 2017. You are free. More free than most souls in other down-trodden people in Calcutta, Zombobi, to name two. You think about this. You must have (at least) known about your "Uncle Jim's" big red barn. You must have been on a perfect summer visit and played every known game known to children everywhere in "Uncle Jim's" big red barn. Shoot! I would even wager that "Jim's" big flock of geese played with you and you sister, "Lacie," while you laughed at her trying to outrun these super geese. I never mentioned your "Aunt Louise's" famous "Rural Cornbread Pie," that has won at least 11 Blue Ribbons in their state fair for 11 years straight. There was a reason why I didn't tell that much about "Louise's" grand talent for cooking: I would have elaborated from two to six paragraphs and besides, this isn't about your "Uncle Jim" and "Aunt Louise," but the big red barn that this wise couple owned. Not rented.
I would have died on the spot if my grandfolks had a red barn on their rented land and house. There is just something special about a barn--red or just plain wood like my grandpa had on his rented property. Now that I think of it, he was always in complete misery when he would see me playing yards away from his barn. Why? I can only tell you why because he was a controlling, stingy, narcissistic senior man. Never did hear him own up to not being perfect. And to guard me from an almost-broken down old barn is ludicrous. Simply ludicrous.
There is literally no end to what a kid my age, eight could have done with the time you had in your own barn. Even now as I type out this story, I am mentally composing things that I dreamed of doing in my grandpa James' vintage rented barn if only I had been given the chance. And without going back to that dark area where he thought that I was the price of livestock, I will continue my nostalgic thinking about the beauty of having a barn.
I had my own planned times for visiting my grandparents' barn. I didn't visit the barn everyday for I knew that grandpa James was no fool and that he might snoop and find out my look-out in that lovely, dirty, and cob-web laden barn loft. And the loft did have bits of hay that once occupied the old lumber that never gave in as I walked. I would go on alternate days and that way gramps James would be confused and I could have a ball without him barking at me. I know that this sounds harsh, but it is true.
In the lower part of gramps James' barn, he had three seperate stalls. Of course used for feeding and watering the livestock, but he never built or used this barn. Gramps James and granny Ida Belle only lived in this house, lot, and barn. They did not own it, but someone used to use this barn for I noticed where the former owner(s) had tried to use a dark pencil to figure lengths of wood--probably building this barn. It made sense. But I used the three stalls to talk to my imaginary cow, mule, and horse--"Joe," "Parker," and "Betsy." "Joe" and "Parker" were my horse and mule and you know who "Betsy" was. We always had a great time. The three were always free as a bird to come in and out of their stalls. I hated to see living things like dogs, cats, livestock with heavy chains to keep them prisoner. And before I write something horribly shocking, but true, I will run toward a more pleasing paragraph.
But up above the main barn area, the loft, was where I loved to stay. No matter if a summer thunderstorm was going on, I didn't mind. I adored how good the rain sounded hitting the rusty tin roof. And so what if lightning were to strike me? I would be so happy that I didn't care. And when I would sometimes experience some adversity, I would hit the barn loft to just be alone. Life was easier for me like that. Crowds and friends have never solved any personal problem in my childhood days.
Even when "that" certain girl and I met in 1962, I took her there to my barn loft. This was my imagination at work. I knew that she would never be seen in a dirty place as the loft, but the more that I grew to love her more, I found out that she would have loved it. And get this. I did NOT fantasize about her or any female to just have sexual relations. I guess that I was stupid or a complete loon. Most of my male buddies in 1965 were "being friendly" with certain girls in my class. I never made their acquaintance, but my friends did. But sometimes I would bring "that" special girl that like me up to the barn loft and I would talk to her in ways that you only find in romance books that are sold in drugstores. I was never allowed to use my grandparents' phone to call anyone. Or else. And once, that "or else" came to pass for me.
In one of my barn loft adventures, I was carried away pretending to be one of those famous criminals that I had seen on TV. He carried a Tommy Gun and dressed great. I made like that I was getting away from "the law" and was carrying my girlfriend with me. Of course, I would always get away clean. No imaginary cop could keep up with me. Then I decided to climb down and split some firewood for my grandma Ida Belle to use in her kitchen stove. I was doing pretty good for an eight-year-old. (My Uncle Dave, rest his soul, taught me how when he was visiting my gramps James and granny Ida Belle). Then he stood there and snapped something hateful at me for using his small axe to split the wood.
ME: "Grandpa, this is the only thing that I could use to split the wood. What did you want me to do?"
GRAMPS: "Get away from there! Now! Or else . . ." Gramps said in his over-lord fashion.
ME: "Or else . . .what?" I said. (It was now or never to make a stand or just be a weakling).
GRAMPS: "I will tell Austin. Just look at what you did to my hand!" Gramps snapped making something out of nothing.
ME: "What? What did I do?"
GRAMPS: "See this blood? You throwed that block at me on purpose!"
GRAMPS: "I will tell Austin when he gets here from work."
ME: "Fine. You do that. I want you to do that!"
And sure enough, gramps James blabbered something about that incident after supper was over--meaning him and Austin, my dad. I chose to not eat more of gramps James' bread.
"Hmmm, don't look that bad to me," Austin said and I saw James' face turn red with anger.
"Don't you see what Kenny did? My hand bled some," Gramps explained, but to no avail.
"Did you do this?" Austin asked.
"Yes, I did. That is the truth, but I did throw the block on purpose. It was all an accident." I said.
"Good enough for me. See ya' Pop," Austin said as he and I went to our car.
For a few precious, priceless moments . . .I was not only really happy, but really at peace with me, myself, and the barn.
© 2017 Kenneth Avery