Friday, June 13, 2008

The Old Log Barn

This barn resembles the one at my grandparents' farm when I was a kid. I love old barns. I don't think anything can cause me to want to stop, look, and take a picture more than an old barn. When I see one, I have a visceral feeling about the people who built and used it. My grandad was still farming on a small scale when I was a kid, and up through my early teen years. They lived in one of the Sears kit houses that I described in a previous post, but down the gravel lane to the left side of their home were numerous out buildings. All were either graying clap board, or log with clap board. The fruit house was directly behind the main house and it is where all the jams, jellies, and canned vegetables were stored. The "tater" house, a low log hut sitting over a pit dug into the ground and used to store potatoes, was to the left of the lane behind the fruit house. Then there was a fence that separated the yard from the chicken yard, and inside that fence was the chicken house and tack room. To the right of that was the buggy barn. They didn't use the buggies anymore, but they were still in the barn and were great for imagined western reenactments. At the end of the lane behind a second fence was the main log barn. The barn's logs had no chinking in them, so we could climb the sides of the barn up to the hay loft by using the logs like a ladder. In the early days, the barn housed milk cows, and mules. It was a muddy smelly place for the most part, but you couldn't beat it for adventure. I loved the corn crib where all the harvested feed corn was stored. It had a corn sheller with a crank handle on one side and a cob spout on the other. It was attached to an old wooden ammo box. After you shucked the ear, you would place it point first into the feeding funnel at the top and turn the crank. The ear would turn as the mechanism inside removed the kernels and dropped them into the box. The naked cob would fall outside. I would always go and put a couple of ears through so I could have something to feed the chickens.

We used to climb into the loft where we could look down on the live stock from above and remain out of harms way. We could also see the surrounding country side through the loft door. After my grandparents quit farming, except for a big garden and some chickens, the old out buildings stood silent, icons to the age of the family farm. A source of sustenance during the great depression. When I would visit after I was nearly grown, and ask my grandmother how things were going, she would always respond by saying, "the old barn is squatting a little more this year." I never knew how much information was being conveyed in her short little statement on life. Grandpa did keep one horse or mule around to use in his garden. I would always try and ride whatever happened to be available at the time. My experiences with plow horses formed the basis for my poem entitled "Old Trigger".


Trigger was a plow horse
Who, seldom saw a saddle.
I was just a big kid
Who rarely rode a straddle.

I lived in the city,
Away from field and barn.
When school was out I’d visit
Old Trigger on the farm.

I thought I’d try and ride him,
And made a split-bit bridle.
I knew it might not stop him,
But hoped it’d make him idle.

Uncle Barney’s saddle
Was split right down the middle.
It was old, the leather dry,
The cinch strap cracked and brittle.

I saddled Trigger, led him round
Beside an old steel drum.
I stood on top and jumped aboard
He snorted, bucked, and spun.

The summer sun was brutal
Old Trigger soon lost steam.
He plodded down the gravel road,
At plowing pace it seemed.

I tried to make him pick up speed
With kick, and click, and whistle.
Then I turned him toward the barn
And he became a missile.

I rocked back and grabbed the horn,
Pulled hard on cotton reins.
But Trigger galloped faster
As he barreled down the lane.

The barn loomed large before us.
He stopped just past the door.
I became a yard dart,
Flying headfirst to the floor.

When I regained my senses
I made this observation:
That you shouldn't ride a plow horse
For fun or transportation.