Of Barns and Men


Just a barn at sunset.

A barn that once had a purpose.  Four stalls for horse or mule.  Small tack room for saddles, bridles and leads.  Loft up above for square bales.

A poet or an artist might describe it as “weathered” or “rustic.”

I am neither.  I like solid words.  Words with a certain heft that you can hold in your hand or put in your pocket and bring out twenty years from now, meaning intact.

I call it “old.”

The tin roof has stood the test of time.  Poplar sideboards still sound.  But the loft door sags, as does the gate.  Time passes.  “Things fall apart.  The centre cannot hold.”

Someone with skills I cannot fathom built this barn for its purpose.  Probably out of the ether with no written plan.  Visualized and then constructed with hand tools.  Style and method learned from father, who learned it from his father.  Hammer, handsaw, sweat and muscle.

I would like to think he paused after the last nail had been driven.  Admired his work like the Master in His holy book.  But likely as not he had a dipper of water from the well across the road.  Wiped his brow, spit, then headed on down the road to the next little patch of land where a barn was a needful thing.  Rest reserved only on the appointed day.

This day draws to its own close.  Perhaps these lines only the scribbled imaginings of a lonesome pilgrim who walked the land at the close of day.  But one thing holds true.  They don’t make them like they used to.

Barns or men.


11 thoughts on “Of Barns and Men

  1. Well done Sir Ray. You must give me your home address, I have sold my home and I have some Coastal Logging books I’d like to send you. I am off to Mexico for 6 or so months, need some sun and quiet time.

  2. I would dearly love to set foot one more time inside an old abandoned barn in the rural South. When I was a kid I spent many hours inside the one my maternal grandfather owned. Now my grandfather is gone. My grandmother too. My parents too. The barn too. Oh, well.

  3. We stacked square bales in loft of the “big barn” which was built in my great grand’s day. When it was full we went to the scattered old tenant houses repurposed as hay barns. They were tough to work in-no air movement and those Guinea wasps as my great uncle Ed called them. Great memories. Big barn still standing- barely.

    1. Phillip,
      I only had one day of what you describe, probably 30 years ago. It was enough to know that I would rather tend trees than cows.

      We still have what is left of the tenant house as well as a hay barn, but the cows are long gone. I don’t think my father-in-law ever made any money on those cows.

      I think he just liked to look at them.

      And those Guinea’s do pack a wallop. The cows may be gone, but the wasps remain.

      Thanks (as always) for stopping by.

  4. My love for old barns and folklore of barns runs deep. As a hobby I photograph these old structures. Recently I discovered our county historical society published a book a few years back and a retired construction trades fella volunteered his time to visit/map/measure and grade over 300 standing barns, sheds and corn cribs in Clay County. One of these barns happens to be down at the bottom of my gravel drive, off of old Bluff Road. Built in the very early 1900’s by a group of Norwegian settlers to this area. Many of these families valued their barns over their own homes. It’s been wonderful to read about the ongoing move towards barn preservation here in the Midwest states. Thanks Ray for recognizing your locals old barn as well and the men who built them.

    1. Leisa,
      You have a very cool hobby. I would love to see some of your photographs. You should start a blog and share them. Who knows? Your hobby might lead to interest in preservation in other states. These old places have stories, and they shouldn’t all be just imagined.

      This barn is on my property. The gravel in the foreground is my drive, although no one would recognize it as such because our house is considerably off the red clay county road. The well is also across the road (on my property), hand-dug, next to a share-cropper house that is beyond repair.

      I hope to have the money and time to preserve the barn, but right now my focus (and my funds) are directed toward our old house. All I am able to do for the barn at present is to keep the surrounding vegetation at bay.

      Thank you for reading my little musings. Your comments are always thoughtful, and they inspire me to continue writing.

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