Every time I’d drive by the place over the years, which I tried hard not to do, another board had fallen off. When the barn came back into the family a couple years ago you could have driven a herd through the holes in the north side. But this week they mostly all got patched.
I’ve been collecting boards for a year or more from other old barns and Habitat Restore and here and there. This week I used them all over a couple of 12-hour days on the farm. Daylight saving time didn’t do me any favors. It got dark about 5:30, long before I was ready to quit. Fortunately, I had brought a work light and so I kept going. It was quite pleasant out there behind the barn as the sun went down. Around dusk a couple of noisy pheasants came in low and dived into the several acres of weeds near the barn. The distant coyotes made their presence known a little later. A possum came ambling through the barn about 8 p.m. and was quite surprised to find someone else there.
My father would have been the last person to nail boards back onto this barn. When he was in his mid-80s he did a lot of work fixing it up and trying to straighten up the north side which bows a little about halfway up. It still bows in a little, but it doesn’t seem to be getting worse. It would take more than my meager resources to make that side perfectly straight again and so I do what I can and leave that bigger job to someone else down the road. My job is simply to fix the barn up enough that the next generation might appreciate it enough to do the rest of the job. We’ll see how that works out. I’m perfectly aware that all this energy I am expending might be for naught longterm. But for now it makes me feel good and that’s reason enough. After a lifetime laboring at a typewriter and then a computer keyboard it feels good to do manual work.
I figure this barn is about 100 years old. As I work I keep looking for a date written on a wall or scratched into cement, but I haven’t found one yet. The people who have worked on the barn before me include the carpenter from town who built it, my great-uncle Thorn who paid for it, my grandfather and my father.
I think about my dad as I work on the barn. I can see in front of me the improvements he made, the nails he pounded, the modifications he improvised. I save all of his barn work that I can and replace what I have to. I hope he approves.I’m using at least one of his tools, a Craftsman half-inch electric drill that has to be 60 years old.
It feels good to have this job mostly done. It’s been on my list since the farm came back. But up until now there have been too many crises that had to be dealt with–mostly with the water system and keeping weather out of other buildings. But there are baby goats due to be born in this barn this winter and so filling in the gaps moved to the top of the list.
The goats were a big help this week. They’re very social and they want to be right where people are. It was a job to keep them from walking on my tools and to get them out of my way so I could walk. But eventually they got bored and moved on.
As good as it is, the patch job on the barn looks pretty patchy. It’ll look much better when I can paint the barn. But for now it looks a heck of a lot better than it did. I hope my dad, wherever he is, is noticing.