Burning down an old barn means saying goodbye to decades of family history and stories.
The old barn on our place has been sagging for years. The rickety building creaks and groans with the faintest wind, and the siding is so thin, you can see through it onto the other side. The windows are broken, and the tin roof is peeling off. After much family debate, we decided it was time for the old barn to come down.
Earlier this summer, we spent a weekend prepping the barn for demolition. With only a couple of months before weaning time hit, we needed to get the barn torn down in order to erect a windbreak in its place before the cattle were moved into the adjacent lot.
The first step was digging through the barn for “old treasures.” Ever the scavenger, my husband Tyler was able to reclaim lots of weathered red barn wood to make me some furniture and picture frames. He can thank Pinterest for all of my ideas and the new “honey-do” list he has. A few months later, I’m now the proud owner of a barn wood kitchen hutch, shelf and picture frame, thanks to my dear husband.
We then removed the steel gates and tin from the building and loaded it up on a flatbed. Next on the list was throwing old wood that blown off the barn back inside. We then called our neighbors at the Upland Hutterite Bretheren colony and lined up their volunteer fire department to be there the day we threw the match on the barn.
I must admit that as we prepped the barn for the demolition, I started to get a little sad. Watching the barn finally burn was certainly a change of pace from our usual weekend chores. And we weren’t surprised when a crowd gathered to watch the blaze, visit and enjoy some of Mom’s homemade brownies.
View This New Gallery: 13 Images From A Barn Burning
One part of me was eager to finish up the project and move on to other things, while another part of me wanted to call off the whole thing and preserve that little slice of our family’s history. Call me silly and nostalgic, but I was a little reluctant to let the barn go. After all, there’s a lot of history in that barn.
It was once a gestation barn that housed many sows -- sows that helped my dad pay his way through college, sows that required scooping manure, daily feedings and tending to piglets. Later, that barn a spare calving barn. And when it became too fragile to hold cattle, it served as a makeshift windbreak for cattle during inclement weather.
In addition to old memories, the barn holds many old stories. How many conversations did my family have in that barn? How many tears were shed over a piglet or calf that didn’t make it? How much laughter has that barn listened to over the years? If this barn could talk, it would undoubtedly tell many stories.
The demolition is now complete, and the new windbreak project is well underway. But when I drive through the countryside now, I find myself noticing other barns that have seen better days. And I feel a little bit of the same sadness regarding all the memories and stories unknown and soon to be lost.
Since the barn demolition, I’ve vowed to document more of my life as it happens. I want more than the whisper of ghosts in an old barn to tell my story to my future children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. So, I’m going to bring my camera along and keep writing my stories. That will be my legacy, and hopefully the barn telling the story of my life will continue to stand tall in the generations to come.
If your barn could talk, what stories would it tell? How much history is stored in your old barns? How do we save the history? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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