In her day, she was “the lady”. You know, like the ones in all the songs from the early 1900’s. Like the one Tom Jones wrote, except when that came out it was 1971 and she was already 41 years old. But age looked good on her. She was the red dress. The show stopper. The one with secrets to tell.
The “she” in question isn’t really a person. She’s my barn. Maybe you’re laughing right now. A barn? You’re talking about a building? I most certainly am. And she was a show stopper.
When we were looking at our now old farmhouse on Zillow, I saw her on the areal view and I gasped in horror and sorrow. She was damaged. Half of her had caved in and I knew, just knew as I zoomed in on her frame, that she was beyond repair.
I remember taking my right hand and grasping at my heart.
I looked at Travis and said “Poor thing! She’s been neglected and now she’s broken!” And even though I was just looking at a photo on a screen, I felt immense sorrow. How could someone do that?! Let that happen. She was built solid, and had stood the test of time. But no one is an island, and after awhile, she gave up. Without repair her frame couldn’t handle the load. She held out as long as she could. Until one day, her beams and joists bending as much as they could under the weight of tin and weather and rot and disrepair, she finally gave way. In a storm, amidst the wind and rain, she gave her last sigh and grunt of strength. No longer able to hold the line, she cried, and collapsed.
She did all she could, but with no help, she crumbled. And as I walked up to her, three weeks after seeing the first photo online, I laid a hand on her tin side, looked up at what had at one time been grand and beautiful, and told her, “I will try to honor you in the best way I know how. We will take what we can from your beautiful frame, and reuse you in the other buildings around the farm. And you will live on.”
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t shed a tear standing there. Looking at her beauty and frailty all at the same time. I was too late. I felt guilty. Which sounds weird I realize. But my love for old buildings runs deep.
Part of me wished I had found her just a bit sooner.
It might seem silly to write up what one could almost call a eulogy for a barn. But do you know what transpired within her walls? Animals were born. Others sighed their last breaths in the stalls of her bottom floor. Farmers started their days by pushing her doors open, and ended their nights clicking the gated closed, telling the animals sweet dreams until morning. Maybe a cow had its milking stanchion beside the back door. Warm streams of cream filling a metal pale every morning and night while mice scurried from bailed hay above. Chickens clucked and called as their fluffy butts danced across the isles, beaks in search of worms and grub. Is a eulogy truly silly when you think of the life that was lived inside this barn?
I don’t think so.
And so I honor her as best I know how. By writing. Because it helps to put my thoughts into words. But to think I can do justice to her, when I’ve only lived beside her for less than two weeks is silly at best. I don’t know enough to morn this barn, yet I do regardless. Someone labored over here, hammering thousands of nails in boards. Walls were assembled and rafters constructed. The barn raising from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers comes to mind. I can picture it. There was care, time, and much effort put into her making.
So I’ll wake up every morning, pour my coffee, and look out onto my barn. And what some could call an eyesore, I call history and memories. So I’ll drink to them each morning, and instead of looking at my barn as a heap of ruin or disaster, I’ll look on her with appreciation and respect. Her story is not finished. Her journey not at an end. She’ll live on for a hundred more years throughout our land.