When I began writing newspaper columns over 14 years ago my first column was about old barns. I wasn’t as computer savvy back then (I’m still not very computer savvy) and a few of my earliest columns have been lost. So, I decided to revisit the subject. I love old barns.
I don’t suppose I ever encountered an old barn I didn’t like. Old barns represent the world in which I grew up. They remind me of days gone by — happy days.
My favorite barn is still standing in the Brim Hollow. As a boy, I spent many an hour in that old barn. To this very day, whenever I picture it in my mind, my nostrils are filled with the smell of mules. And I see corn shucks piled to the ceiling in the corn crib; and a heap of red, corn cobs rising from the floor of the crib. And, too, I hear shelled corn falling into the corn box as I turn the corn sheller, and watch for the corn cob to be “spit” out.
Across the hallway, I can still hear the mules, Kate and Liz (that’s Liz with a long “i,” as in “Little Liza Jane.”) crunching shelled corn with their big mule teeth.
That old barn could tell some stories. The skeleton of an old buggy remains hauntingly suspended above the floor at the end of the upper hallway.
Next in my list of favorites is the feed barn back at the old home place. I spent many more hours in that old barn. That old red barn was a center of activity in days gone by. In its core was a stable we called “the log pen.” I’m sure it was the barn in the beginning. Constructed of great timbers, it was built to survive an earthquake. Over the years, it supported tons of hay stacked to the tin roof in the loft above.
I was there when a lot of that hay was stacked. There are many kinds of “hot.” I have experienced “hay hauling hot.” Oh, the smell of an old feed barn when it is filled with newly baled hay! It’s a sweet smell that can’t be described.
Some years when the tobacco barns were filled we used the loft of the feed barn as an overflow. That loft is where my brothers and I were first introduced, up close and personal, to yellowjackets. Hanging tobacco around yellowjackets always made me a little squeamish.
In the winter, in those days, we brought the entire cow herd into the barn and out of the weather. The hay racks were filled with blocks of hay every night. My father insisted over the years that we remove all the hay strings as we filled the hay racks. If you have ever forked manure out of a barn stable you know why.
And, then, there are the tobacco barns I have known. I guess my parents started me early. I well remember the feel of a drafty, old tobacco barn at tobacco stripping time. I still have a scar over my right eye from a fall I took in a tobacco barn when I was all of 3 years old. That told me I tripped on a rock and hit the wagon tongue. Those were my first stitches.
My brothers and I, along with some good neighbors and friends, hung tobacco in all kinds of tobacco barns. In some, the tier poles were too close, (vertically) and in some they were too far apart. Which means in some barns your head was right smack under someone’s buttock, and in some other barns, you had to stretch to reach the man above you.
We hung tobacco on sound, rough-cut 2X6s and on ancient, “worm-eat” round poles. Old, round tier poles were always an adventure. There were times when we felt like circus performers, balancing on the high-wire.
Yet, in all the years; and all the different barns, not one of us ever fell out of a barn. God is good.
I love old barns. They take me back in time. Whenever I step inside one that stands empty and eerily quiet, I experience a deep sense of reverence. And I take a moment to pay my respects — respect for lives touched and a job well done.
It saddens me to see so many of them fading into the past.
Jack McCall is a motivational humorist, Southern storyteller and author. A native Middle Tennessean, he is recognized on the national stage as a “Certified Speaking Professional.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2020 by Jack McCall.