My great-Uncle Albert’s barn raised the bar for what a barn should be. A rambling, splotched caterpillar, it sprawled behind his rustic house. It was an amalgamation of scavenged lumber of various vintages. Over many years, he’d added on as the need arose and opportunity allowed Of an age to have experienced The Great Depression in its entirety, he understood waste not, want not. His house and outbuildings were built largely of reclaimed lumber. One stall of his barn was lied high with neatly stacked reclaimed lumber stored in readiness for his next project. He had recently been hired to tear down and haul off an old house, the very lumber now resting in his barn. Coffee cans of used nails sat on a shelf. As tempting as it looked, one hard look from Uncle Albert made it clear his lumber was off limits for climbing.
Wisely, Albert did not seem anxious for the company of bothersome children, making no effort to be friendly. In fact, I never noticed him behaving particularly warmly toward my dad., even though Daddy clearly admired him and sought his approval. Uncle Albert was as likely to grump at Daddy as he was at us. I was mystified at seeing Daddy treated as a troublesome child. Daddy had spent months on end living and working with Uncle Albert during His childhood of The Great Depression. His father had died young, leaving a widow with seven young children to to raise.
The barns multiple rooms opened off a central open area. It’s many rooms held ancient implements, harness, plows and all manner of equipment neatly organized. An ancient wagon Relaxed in one stall, in readiness for hay-hauling. We were free to play on it, as long as we weren’t destructive. Hay was stacked in numerous stalls. Uncle Albert mad it clear the hay was not there for our pleasure. In one stall russet and sweet potatoes lay in their beds of hay, dusted with lime. String of beans, dried apples, pears, and onions hung from the rafters. Several barn cats patrolled the barn to keep mice and rats at bay. They weren’t the friendly house cat variety.
The barn was roofed with hand-split wooden shingles. I can’t imagine all the hours he spent splitting them. A neat fence made of various types of wire garden entry to the barn. A couple of large metal road signs served as fence panels, adding to the barnyard’s appeal.
I just loved that barn. I wish I could spend another afternoon poking around in it.