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Bits & Pieces -- August 19

For my Bits & Pieces this week, I'm going to use an email sent to me by my cousin from Souix Falls, S.D. I asked him for permission to use it.

His name is Cam Lind and he wrote it after another cousin sent an email video of old barns. It was a neat video and showed the many different styles of barns and in various stages of decay, but it brought back memories of barns of years ago. While the names won't mean anything to readers in the area, the message will bring back memories of those who lived on farms in the 30s, 40s and 50s. Maybe even later. By the way the man who built the addition on the barn was my dad.

Old Barn memories

The Old Barn Old Folks video I got from Donna Marten got me to thinking and I decided to write about the barn at Mom and Dad's farm.

As a young child I remember making the walk from doing my chicken chores in the evening, to go up to the barn to watch Dad milk the cows. It was so quiet when I walked in, you could hear the cows chewing away on their evening rations, the little bucket calves rustling around in the pen waiting for their evening share of the milk. There were usually several cats also waiting in line.

When I was very young there was the team of work horses across the aisle from the milking area, Rex and Beauty were their names. Dad took care of them before he started the milking. They would be standing there eating, resting and in the summer, swishing their tails and stomping to rid themselves of flies.

Dad would have me take the fly sprayer and spray the cows, calves and the team. I would ask Dad if he had an EASY cow for me to milk. He usually found one and I would get a few squirts of milk and then get bored, I sometimes got enough milk to feed the cats.

The barn also housed a lot of our winter heat supply of corn cobs and it was my job to get them to the house. In the one corner was a bin where we put the ground feed that we mixed on Saturday mornings. It was for the cows, brood sows and sometimes the laying hens. In the summer I also got the job of checking out the haymow for the hens that wanted to hatch chicks. Most of the time I would leave one nest and we would get a batch of barn chicks to play with.

The lean-to on the west side of the barn was for the stock cows and calves. There was a job that I hated in the spring when it was time to clean it out. In the early to mid 1950s, dad added on a 16 foot by 40 foot addition, Francis McDonald helped to build it. We even put in a hydrant for watering the livestock. Quite a modern convenience.

The haymow was a special place, one where I would hide and sit and think about life and what was out there in the real world. Later on I realized I grew up in the real world. It also held our basketball rim and bangboard where I played out my dreams of being a basketball star. Didn't happen. Also remember putting the winter supply of hay in there for the milk cows and the straw bales for bedding. It was usually about 95 to 100 degrees during that process.

After I made my exit to Sioux Falls shortly after high school and when I would return home, the barn was one of my first visits. Great place to think and remember.

As the years went by, the west barn was damaged and was mostly just a shelter. The west wall started to fall away from the footings, the winter of 1968 and 1969 really took its toll on it.

The center barn was also where we would put the tractor in the winter so we could get it started to haul hay and do other chores. The east barn never did get the cement floor that was planned for it. Bad prices, bad crops and feeding six kids usually took the allotted funds instead.

Shortly before Dad sold the farm I took my paint sprayer out and gave the outbuildings on the farm a last coat of paint. I saved the barn for last, it was like giving first aid to a buddy.

The day of Dad's farm sale the last thing I did that day was walk through the barn one more time. I found a batch of Farmers Hybrid Seed Corn signs that were some of Dad's advertising items. I gave most of them to brothers and sisters, my kids a few years later and kept the last two for my corn collection.

About 20 years later Denny Pearson called me the week before Memorial Day to tell me that the person who had bought the acreage had burned down the barn instead of trying to keep it up anymore. He knew that I went to the farm every Memorial Day weekend and he wanted to cushion the shock for me. I drove in the driveway that Friday evening, the barn was gone and a piece of me died that day. The sun was setting right where the barn used to stand and in the orange ball of light that was going down over the trees I saw a huge part of my life was missing forever.