Reclaiming the Barn: A Story

Old Barn Canola Field

The old barn had been there as long as anyone could remember.

It sat in the middle of the big field, the one that used to be filled with cattle but was now empty. The field was mowed twice a year by the neighbors. They were paid for their work with all the hay they could bale. The family who had once lived there had seen good, full lives and then gone on to their great reward. The house had burned down years ago. But the barn — that barn that seemed to outlast every other building anywhere in town or the outskirts — it stayed, bearing silent witness to a changing world.

“What are they going to do with that old barn?”

And oh, how time did change. Soon the heirs of that old farm were talking with men who build shopping malls. Shortly after that the land was taken over, and men in suits would show up to wander the area and point, talking about this and that. They were men who had never set foot on a farm before, and they invariably wound up cursing at the mud they found on their fine Italian shoes when it was time to go.

Surveyors came. Then construction planners. Then other men who looked at the barn with a critical eye. Soon, there were whispers at the corner diner about that new shopping mall that would go in where the old farm used to be.

Then someone said: “What are they going to do with that old barn?”

And just like that, the people of the town realized that if the shopping mall would be there, then the old barn wouldn’t be.

A place of history

It was the place all of them remembered. The farming family that had once lived there had nine children, all of them friendly, and so many townsfolk remembered playing in the old barn. They remembered the dust of the hay and the whinny of the horses and the lowing of the cattle. They remembered giving directions to out-of-town relatives: “Turn left at the old barn.” They remembered the days when the barn was painted red, but now it was more silver than anything else, the wood weathered to a soft shine.

“They can’t just tear that old barn down!”

reclaimed siding

As with the best of things, all it took was the power of memory and the determination of the present to make things happen. The residents talked to those who ran the town, and those people talked to those who ran the shopping mall. Together, they came up with a plan: Take the old barn down, piece by piece. Give the wood to those who wanted it.

A new life in the community

The day of dismantling was bittersweet. The old barn was leaving, but something new was arising from the loss. The wood from the weathered hayloft wound up on the floor of a fine home several miles away. The hefty beams from the corners became borders for the community playground. The stalls were broken down into pieces that were perfect for benches. The little treasures found inside — an old bucket, a surprisingly unbroken window, and even the old pitchfork, became useful decoration for homes that were far removed from that old farm.

In the end, the barn didn’t disappear — it was simply parceled out into old memories and new uses.

reclaimed wood bench

I bought one of those benches from the talented woodworker who collected some of that old barn wood. It sits in my backyard, now a useful piece of history. I see those benches everywhere. It’s a reminder that even in this fast-paced world, sometimes the best of the old things hang around to see another day.

And this is certain: Nothing in that brand new shopping mall could possibly come close to the charm, nostalgia and sheer beauty of my little piece of that big old barn.


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