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By Pam Burke 

View from the North 40: Ode to my barn, the home of treasures


Last updated 5/28/2021 at 10:13am

There is something about a barn that speaks to the soul, and I’m not just saying that because I have one — or rather I have both — a barn and a soul.

I’ve been working on my barn recently, and it’s given me a lot of time to think on the topic.

Barns are kind of the poster children of rural living, literally the image of rural living. I googled it.

Actually, I did an image search for the term bucolic. The word means “relating to the pleasant aspects of the countryside and country life” says Oxford Languages. You get the picture, and that’s what I was looking for, the pictures.

You know the first photo in the image search for bucolic? That’s right, cows in a field. The next four images were on track with barns, and they outnumber cow photos and prove my point.

Before I move on, though, I just want to say a little something about the romanticized image of cows in a field:

Nothing looks more wholesome and bucolic, if you will, than cows in a field, but up close, those critters are icky. Sure, I might face some backlash from the agriculture community over that stance, and I’m not going to go into the frank details about smelly, nasty cows because I don’t want to ruin anyone’s next meal, but there are only a few ways in which a cow looks and smells good up close. Wrapped in little packages in my freezer is a good start; sizzling away on a grill; folded into a taco shell; boiling away in a hearty stew; slathered in barbecue sauce with a side of coleslaw, all of those are ways cows are great up close.

Barns, on the other hand, stylishly appear in calendars, coffee table picture books, advertising and family photos. Homes are modeled after them. They represent cultures, have been made into historical monuments, are the subject of tours, and people hold weddings and parties in barns all of the time. This is all beyond the usage for which they are built — livestock, feed and equipment shelter.

Sure, a cow parted out into wrapped packages makes for some awesome meals, but barns get parted out, too.

My evidence: Barn style half-doors off the kitchen, barn-style sliding doors everywhere in the house and aged barn wood and rusted barn tin for decorating accents, as well.

Barns are popular; there’s no denying it.

My barn is popular with me.

Mostly it just holds hay, but considerable square footage of it still shelters ... well, I don’t really have a logical and concise word for the rest of what it holds. Maybe hodgepodge, detritus, mishmash, leftovers, excess, oddments, mingle-mangle and or treasures or 50-years’ use and abuse.

The full tale of the barn’s life before and after it was moved here is too long for the space I have left, but I think I will tell it one day. It’s a classic family tale, prominently featuring the look on my father-in-law’s face as a chain or cable or strap broke and the barn he was standing on dropped the last 10 feet to its current spot.

It hasn’t been treated much better since then, even by me. But it’s time now, or we will lose it.

And as I clean out the 50-year collection of bits and bobs — from rusted 1-inch screws to transmissions, old doors galore, the barrel full of mystery fluid and more — as well as dust, dry horse manure and stray hay stalks blown into the corners, I’m finding memories.

This was the walk-through door into my make-shift hay storage area. All this manure blown to the edges came from before the horses got their own shelter, back to the days of my first horse ever. There’s the dark corner of clutter that coyote hid in after our timid dog surprised us all and chased the critter to ground in the barn. And here’s a collection of jumps from back in my three-day eventing days.

And so it is with barns, no matter how much stuff you put in them, there is always room to pack in some memories.


I owe the barn more favors than it owes me at http://www.facebook.com/viewfromthenorth40 .


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