Unlike most of our throw-away society, farmers continue to use things until they are worn out; then they repair them and use them for another twenty years.
Time and again I was amazed to find something on our farm which had been painstakingly repaired by my predecessor, while I would have simply driven to the store and purchased a new one. Not only does this “never throw anything away” policy say much about the moral fiber of our forefathers, but it makes an old farm a treasure trove of antiques. What was merely a tool to our hard-working grandparents is considered a unique (and often valuable!) piece of Americana in today’s world.
Thus Roxanne and I eagerly began exploring our farm; looking for these priceless artifacts of a bygone era. Unfortunately we discovered the previous owners of our farm were either skinflints or their greedy heirs had already stripped the property of everything of value. We found piles and piles of trash, but not one decent antique. While the former owners had saved everything under the sun – wires, nuts, bolts, broken boards – there appeared to be absolutely nothing of value, as we searched from the dankest corner of the basement to the hottest eve of the attic. Nothing!
But we had one last hope: our beautiful century barn. Unfortunately, this ancient structure was completely overgrown with trees, bushes and ivy when we bought the farm. In fact, if not for the rusted metal roof which bravely poked above the thick growth, I would have thought its existence merely a myth.
Until I saw what Mother Nature had done to this building, I had always questioned the veracity of fairy tales wherein a wicked witch puts a spell on a castle and said castle then slowly disappears beneath the overgrowth of years of neglect. Now I saw firsthand these long-ago writers knew exactly what they were talking about.
As such, it had to be packed with priceless treasures. Roxanne and I were like kids waiting to open presents on Christmas morning as we longingly looked at this mysterious building. But we first had an alpaca farm to carve out of the wilderness, so we
left this structure alone to guard its hidden treasures for almost a year after purchasing the property. Then one cool autumn day Roxanne laid her whip aside (just kidding – she actually only uses a broomstick to keep me moving) and said I could take a break from my assigned chores, for today we were going to explore our barn!
As such, it had to be packed with priceless treasures. Roxanne and I were like kids waiting to open presents on Christmas morning as we longingly looked at this mysterious building. But we first had an alpaca farm to carve out of the wilderness, so we left this structure alone to guard its hidden treasures for almost a year after purchasing the property. Then one cool autumn day Roxanne laid her whip aside (just kidding – she actually only uses a broomstick to keep me moving) and said I could take a break from my assigned chores, for today we were going to explore our barn!
Eager for a change of scenery, I grabbed my trusty chainsaw and slowly began clearing a path through the dense undergrowth, all the while trying to avoid the poison ivy which seemed to be everywhere. After several hours we cut the last branches away and stood in front of the barn itself. I felt like Indiana Jones finding some ancient Incan city buried in the jungle.
But this building was not yet ready to give up its secrets, for between us and our goal was a huge gap in the earth. (Note: this
building was a “bank barn,” which meant it was originally built against the side of an elevated dirt bank. Unfortunately, over the decades a combination of erosion of the bank and movement of the barn had resulted in a large open space between the barn doors and the adjacent ground.) As I surveyed this latest obstacle I felt Roxanne’s hands pushing on my butt. “What are you waiting for?” she said from her location safely behind me. Maybe in my prime (i.e., young and stupid phase of my life) I might have attempted to leap across the yawning abyss at my feet, but I was far too smart (i.e., cowardly) in this my fifth decade to do anything so bold; especially when I saw the bottom of this gulley was filled with big rocks and nail-infested boards.
Refusing to give up, we dragged a couple of long planks to the edge of this chasm. With a fair amount of shoving and groaning
(as I age I groan a lot while I work), we positioned these boards to span the gap to the barn. Surveying the results of our labors, I was reminded of the pirate stories of my youth and those unfortunate souls who were forced to “walk the plank.” But with untold riches awaiting us, I carefully placed first one foot and then the other on the boards. These boards, which had seemed so heavy and solid as we dragged them into position, now sagged and swung as if they were made of rubber. Another picture flashed into my mind: this one of an old jungle movie, where our hero is crossing the Amazon River on a long shaky, swinging footbridge with hordes of screaming natives in hot pursuit. Now in my case I had only Roxanne behind me, but she was more than enough to keep me moving. So carefully sliding one foot in front of the other I closed my eyes and edged across the swaying planks. After what seemed like hours I reached the far side and gratefully hugged the wooden siding of the barn like a Titanic survivor grasping for a lifeboat.
But my trials were not over. As I measured the tiny opening in front of me, I realized I was too big to fit through! Now barns, including ours, come equipped with huge sliding doors, which are sized to allow a steam-powered thrashing machine to pass through with room to spare. But the doors which faced me as I huddled on that shaking board had not been moved in years and their rusting hardware and sagging superstructure were not about to budge with my puny pushes. So I faced a dilemma: with the solid wall of the barn in front of me I couldn’t go forward; with Roxanne behind me, I couldn’t turn back. So taking a deep breath, I stuck my head into the small opening which faced me and began pushing my body forward. At first nothing happened. Then somewhere deep inside the barn (or was it deep inside of me?) I heard something crack and like a cork out of bottle I suddenly shot through the opening. I was inside!
Everywhere we looked we saw examples of fine craftsmanship
which seems to have disappeared from our modern world. We stared in awe at the twelve-inch-square wood beams which
supported this structure, imagining the sweat and determination it had taken to carve them from the trunk of a tree with nothing but an ax. Truly we were looking at a vanishing piece of American
I picked myself up from the floor and was checking to see if I was in one piece when Roxanne’s head appeared in the opening. “What’s the hold-up?” were her words as she, being several sizes smaller than me, proceeded to slip easily through the opening which had so recently removed two layers of my skin. But for better or worse we had accomplished our purpose and we were finally inside our mysterious barn!
Fortunately, we had brought a flashlight as it was pitch black inside the building. As we shined this light around, Roxanne and I were overwhelmed by the silent dignity of this old structure. “If only these walls could talk,” we