It was not just a beautifully constructed thing, put together by skilled hands but it was like an island, a place to seek shelter from the world that some times seems to gang up on us. It was also a place to go to just be happy…happy having people to love and people who love you.
It was a barn, but not like any like any other barn. It was a special barn built some time in the mid to late 1800’s by German immigrant craftsmen who came down from Pennsylvania to make farmland out of this fertile soil around Baltimore. The forests around them contained American Chestnut trees that were as strong as oaks and once cut and dried, the wood would last hundreds of years. After it dried and hardened, termites had to build tunnels outside the wood to get past it. Many old barns built with chestnut framing are still standing today. My barn still stands over 70 years after I left it and has been converted to a house, occupied by a happy young family.
The old barn had many purposes, the main resident on the ground floor was our cow – our source of milk and butter and attached to one wall was the house that gave shelter to the chickens that supplied us with eggs and fried chicken on special days. Occasionally a horse would spend some time in one of the stalls or, if not a horse, a mule might spend a night or two while the fields were being plowed.
Oh yes, let’s not forget, there was usually another animal, one that Henry and I loved and would have let him stay with us but Mom put her foot down. It was Billy, the goat. I don’t think we were ever without a goat and we always called him Billy.
The second floor was high and dry and we stored hay there that was used for feed and bedding in what was called the hay mow. Sometimes when we had a long spell of rain, brother Henry and I would spend our days playing in the barn, out of the weather and out of our mothers hair. Even in the winter, when snow covered the ground for weeks, we would go to the barn to play,
That second floor is also the reason that everyone needs a barn. I started going to that special place when I was very young and wanted to be alone to think about things. I would climb up the ladder from the first floor, open the door at the front of the barn, sit with my feet hanging down and try to contemplate life on a 10 acre farm in the mid 1930s, in the midst of a Depression.
I remembered thinking once, after leaving a depressing discussion in the house, how bad can things be if we have all this? I did not realize we didn’t have two nickels to rub together at the time but I was a boy of 6 or 7 trying to understand something that my adult parents couldn’t fully understand. But again, my barn gave me a spot where I could go to re-group and when I returned to the house later, the discussion was over and I felt safer.
Now, I know you are not going out and begin looking for a spot to build a new barn but all of us – men, women and children, should find our own barn – a place to be alone to think, to contemplate what our next action should be, our next words.
Most times, a little thought before we speak can save us from a lifetime of regret. Our barn can be a place in the basement, a spot in the corner of our bedroom where we can look at the world thru a new window or think about the other side of a disagreement we are having. It could even be in the garage or in the attic if you can get there safely.
If there is a message in any of this, it is to think before we act. Just a little thought about what we are going to say or about what we plan to do and the consequences, can save us, at times, from a lifetime of regret. Statements made without thinking can never be taken back.
Don LangrehrAre you receiving your free digital subscription to The Zone Magazine? If not, click here!