in rural Paris, Iowa, and Wordpress

The Barn

The Barn-017

I cannot save this old barn. Even if I were in the business of saving old barns–which I most emphatically am not–I could not save this old barn. It is already too far gone as it is. To restore it would cost too much, more than can be justified by any practical reasons. Even were it not too far gone, it is merely a relic of an economic unit that exists no longer in these parts–the family farm. As such, it has no purpose anymore. Nor was it built to last forever. It is a thing that has served out its useful life. Yet simply because it still stands here, the property taxes are significantly higher than they would be if it did not.

I already saved it once. Long ago.

The Barn-014
It is not a barn of architectural or antiquarian interest. It is only coming up on 100 years of age. Nails were not used in the construction of the frame. The beams are pinned together with wooden pegs. That does not make it unusual.

The Barn-022

What made the barn unusual was its twin that stood corner to corner with it on the bias. Twin red barns sitting up on the ridgeline. I was here alone as a young man watching the place while my parents were on a business trip, one of their rare trips. I believe this was in the mid-seventies. One of those raging thunder storms boiled up. The crack of the lightning bolt that hit the other barn was deafening. That barn was engulfed in flames in an instant. I called the fire department. I strung a garden hose and made a pitiful attempt to keep the end of this barn wet until they got here. The heat from the other was breathtaking. The end of this barn was catching. The fire department was able to preserve this barn, but the only thing that made it distinctive, its twin, was gone. How this one has survived all the tornadoes since I have no idea. The tornadoes come off the flat and then skip along the high ground.

So I explain to this barn that I saved it once. I was here. I called the fire department. I have no responsibility to save it again. Nor could I if I did have that responsibility. Or if I  wanted to. I am not in the business of saving old barns. That is not what I do. I do not even wish that I could save this barn. I do not even live here. I live in Mexico.

The Barn-032

Cows in those stanchions used to be be milked here underneath the barn, believe it or not. Underneath the barn the butterfat was separated with a cream separator for sale. The remaining skimmed milk was mixed with ground grain with which to slop the hogs. But I do not know why I am writing about that because I really, honestly do not care. Nor is there any earthly reason why anyone else should have the slightest interest.

The Barn-021

I have resolved to go this far. I will not let it fall. I will let it stand until it obviously can stand no more. Then I will take it down. I will not let it fall. If I am too old to take it down when that time comes, then there will be another fire.

For the time being I take pictures of it in its extremity.

17 Responses to “The Barn”

    • StephenBrassawe

      It is, Jamie, but such is the way of the things. And since such is the way of things, I try to maintain a studied coldness about it.

    • StephenBrassawe

      You have been on a tear in your blog in my absence, Jamie. You are on a roll with your poetry! Since I cannot find a way to tell you that there, then I will tell you that here.

      • Jamie Dedes

        Thank you! Much appreciated. Turned off comments to that I can focus on work. I can socialize like this and it’s a bit less daunting.

        Hope 2013 finds you well. Wish you the best and look forward to visiting your blog tomorrow.

        Warmest ~

  1. Rubye Jack

    Obviously these kind of places that dot the rural south and midwest are more than nostalgia. They are reminders, markers, teachers of how things were in another day. More than a symbol, they do seem to have a life of their own and who is to say…
    Anyway, I like that you’re not tearing it down.

    • StephenBrassawe

      You are correct in what you say, Jack. I will do what I can to keep it standing as long as possible, but I cannot sink a fortune into it. In that sense it will be a valiant struggle in a lost cause. I will do my best anyway.

  2. April

    My parents home had a very similar old cow barn from the 1800’s (wood pegs, hand hewn beams, etc) behind the old farm house that we grew up in. My dad made it his mission to save the barn, and many a summer was spent trying to keep it from fall apart, including renting a whole bunch of industrial jacks and lifting up one whole side of the barn that was sinking into the ground. One weekend I came home from college to visit during a particularly hard winter and found that the barn had finally breathed its last breath and collapsed. It’s been, like 10 years, and my dad still hasn’t gotten over it.
    Even though I don’t live in that house anymore, it is so sad seeing that pile of beautiful old beams and rotting wood where it used to be. Good luck on your rescue mission, and yours looks like it’s still in better shape than ours was so hopefully you’ll have a happier outcome.

    • StephenBrassawe

      You relate a story that is precisely appropriate, April. You know something of what the effort would be like. As I wrote to Jack above, I realize that it is a lost cause. I confess that I wish it were not, although I try to maintain that studied coldness about the barn.

  3. Angeline M

    Precious photos to memorilize a part of your life from the past that you can maintain a coldness about, but not negate. And now, as it always has, the barn will stand until it is supposed to. Letting go is never easy.

    • StephenBrassawe

      Well put, Angeline. And I try never to assume anything. That old barn may outlast me. The roof is still in good shape. In that case it will be somebody else’s problem.

  4. scott2608

    People and building of the past fade overtime but memories last to the end of days. Nice barn and photos. What does it look like on the outside?

  5. kalabalu

    I saved it once from fire, then it saved itself over the years, now it is time to crumble down, I search my eyes for tears. I can not find any..oh! dear..what has happened to my savior passion, has it aged over the years. Or, perhaps the barn is a barn and nothing but a barn, so let it give way and come what may..listen..NO Fear :)) When I am here

  6. Emily January

    I love this. What a beautiful barn and you pay a touching tribute to it, even with your declarations of not really caring. I think you do care in a nostalgic way. This reminds me of a barn I pass in a rural area of my drive to school. It is old, dilapidated, weather-beaten, and alone, but it takes my breath away every time I see it. It represents the past, a simpler time and life, and our connection as human beings to the land, although we have tried to disconnect from it. Great post!


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