The old barn finally fell down of its own weight. After being “broke back” with a sagging roof for a few years, a big wind (and it probably wasn’t all that big) blew down through the coulee, and the barn took on a new posture—splayed out in a riot of concrete blocks, weathered shingles, and home sawn lumber. A few nearby box elders helped ease her fall.
I had gotten permission to salvage a few things from this rural wreck. It was an interesting but not altogether safe enterprise. There was still some falling left in the old barn, so I was careful. The three-hole blocks were good. There was some galvanized pipe a friend of mine put to good use. The car siding from the end gables was almost as good as the day it went on, seventy some years ago.
Salvage work is humbling. It's so much easier to go buy new materials. At today’s prices, though, it is probably a good bet that you can make (or save) several days' wages by deconstructing something like this barn. What I liked was the thought process that went on, inevitably and involuntarily, as I worked on this big old puzzle.
I thought about the people that built the barn. I thought about all the action that used to take place in and around this country cathedral when it was full of Jersey cows and hay. One of those cows was mine—a gift from my godmother when I was eight years old. Old Number 27 served for several years in the milking lineup. When her calves were sold, the proceeds went into a savings account, and I got that very welcome money while I was in college.
I thought about how few dairy barns are being used now as dairy barns in Wisconsin compared to the heyday of small family farms in this state. The large modern dairies with their big herds have for the most part outgrown the classic stanchion dairy barns as pictured on our license plates.
The familiar iconic and majestic working building, the big red barn, will forever be a symbol of farming and rural life. You can honor the barn by displaying a colorful garden flag with a barn on it. There are many to choose from.
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