I know I say this an awful lot but just in case anyone missed it I was raised on a farm in the 50’s and 60’s in southern Clermont County and have always been so glad that I was. The reason was that I enjoyed the farm life and all that came with it and from my earliest recollections and even today when I see a farm I almost always and immediately look for the barn. If you stop and take a little longer look, the barn is the biggest structure that a farmer has and by looking at his barn a lot can be derived about the man who owns it and how he approaches his way of farming. Barns can be built in many unique ways and I always have liked seeing one that is just a little different than the norm.
Webster Dictionary defines a barn as “a large farm building used for storing grain, hay, or straw or housing livestock.” Notice that it says a large farm building? Webster goes on to define a farm as “a tract of land, usually with a house, barn, silo etc., on which crops and livestock are raised for livelihood.” With these definitions in place I can now go back to the years in which I was raised and say that was what I saw as we drove the countryside. A house, barn and an assortment of other outbuildings that were in the close proximity of the barn only made a farm look even bigger and more prominent in stature. They appeared as the sentinels over that farm and the rest of the buildings.
Growing up I saw the barn as the place that adventures were created in. Of course a barn with a hay mow was the first place on my list. There were stables for horses or cattle and areas for hogs. Along with the hay mow there were usually grain bins that with the correct imagination, and not getting caught in them, were fun also. If part of the barn was tiered off to hang tobacco, there was a climbing area and the tobacco sticks made great swords, rifles, and other great items. A barn has a world enclosed in it and was the perfect place for a child to play and pretend, at least the one on Fruit Ridge was for me.
So it is no wonder that even today when I see a barn of good size and maybe a unique look to it that I do a little reminiscing and maybe even sigh that it would be great to revisit even if it were only for an hour, but just settle for a smile as I travel on down the road. What I recall was that most every barn in the past was kept in a condition that was A1. I know my dad saw to it that every three years all our building roofs were painted. He said that if rust begins on a roof it is impossible to keep that roof from rusting altogether.
He never painted the sides of the barn or his corn cribs, but did paint the outbuildings white. He saw that if siding was detreating that new siding was installed. Dad wasn’t a man for flash but he wanted his buildings to look good, but most of all, his investment protected. At that time these buildings all had a purpose. What didn’t seem out of the ordinary then was that all the landowners I saw did the very same thing.
Lately though I’ve noticed a change in the scenery. I see more and more barns falling into decline. More roofs are rusty and barn sides that were painted white or red have faded to a point where too much plain wood showsm causing the barn to look probably in poorer condition than it really is. I don’t claim to be an expert in the reason that this is happening, but it is. I’m certain there are many factors as to why but again I don’t have a conclusive answer. I do know that the way many farms look today are not the way they looked in the past.
I enjoyed going to our barn and playing in the hay or the grain, building things with the tobacco sticks or just watching the livestock as they looked back at me. It was a great time and a great place to be. I just hated to see that part of my life change. It must have been special because I can’t think of any negative thoughts, (not even the rotten egg fight my brother Ben and I got into and just how bad we smelled) about the barn.
With all that said and letting my nostalgia run a little wild, I return to the here and now. If the need and purpose for a barn or other buildings is gone, wouldn’t it make more sense to remove the structure? It would have to come off the tax bill and save the person money, and not let a structure that served its owner well just slowly fade away. That was just a thought and again not an educated answer. Being fond of old barns and memories might make for bad opinions but man they sure do make for warm memories of part of a good life.
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.