The barn has stood since the 1860s, built of massive axe hewn beams pinned together with big wooden spikes. Built before the era of concrete foundations, it sits on large rocks hauled in from the fields. It was probably built by one Patrick Farrell who owned the land way back when the land was worked with a team and single plow.
The beams would have been carefully chosen, carefully hewn and carefully seasoned so as not to warp after the barn was up. There would have been a barn raising since the heavy beams, fitted in sections while still on the ground, needed a crew of neighbours to raise and daring skywalkers, without safety kit of any kind, to fasten the frame together after it rose high in the air. The rafters are long poles stripped of bark, the cladding barn boards hammered directly onto the beams.
Afterward, there would have been a dance and a whole lot of food and probably swigs of the harder stuff in the dimmer corners.
For over 15o years the barn has held horses, cattle, pigs and every variety of farm animal. Loads of hay for winter fodder, drawn by sweating teams ,came through its central bay, lifted into the vast twin mows by a hay hook and tackle that still runs on its track high under the roof ridge. It sports a shell hole where a former owner blasted a marauding skunk a century ago.
The barn has stood up to all the fierce County winds and faced down Hurricane Hazel. But the wind last week, up to 120k, took one corner of its roof and peeled it gapingly back. Unused for at least forty years now, the barn has not found a place in modern life. It’s mows are empty, milking stations full of cobwebs, cavernous lower regions housing only barn swallows for life.
Now the question is to fix the roof or let the barn join the ranks of others of its kind which can been seen about rural roads, roofless, open sided, sinking to the ground. These old barns have fallen out of use except to provide barnboard for fashionable city bars or faux rustic home decor. They cost too much keep up. With no bales of hay and livestock filling them, they seem to give up and deteriorate all the faster.
My barn once had three others like it within sight, all now long vanished. It is the last for miles on my road. Shall I finally let mine join them? The wind has made the first tear in its weakening fabric. Without action, the storms will soon start picking off the weathered boards and rust eat at the two steel cables preventing the central beams from bowing apart. Its century and a half of faithful duty make a silent reproach as I weight its fate and feel my pocketbook clenching tight.
Thrift or sentiment, which will win? Even I can’t tell.