The old barn was my favorite place to play, especially onrainy days. When the neighborhood boys came over, wewould make up games ranging all the way from Blackbeard the Pirate to Tom Mix and his horse Tony. We spent many happy hours in that old barn, both working and playing.
The barn was built out of native lumber, just like theold house. The frame work was made of solid oak beams,eight inches square. They were held together either withmortise and tenon joints or by round oak pins driven intoholes. The outside sheeting was native elm or cedar. It was well built and very sturdy.
When Grandpa moved the old barn from where it originally stood on the creek bank, Grandma insisted he locate it some distance from the house. She complained, "I want that barn far enough away so that I can't smell it when the wind is from that direction." So Grandpa put it nearly half a block from the house. In fact, it was far enough between house and barn that my cousin Marsh and I made a practice of tethering a pony at each place so we wouldn't have to walk either way.
There were eight horse stalls with a wooden feed boxand a manger for each horse. Behind each pair of horsesthere were wooden pegs on the wall that held two sets of harness. After a hard day's work in the field, the horses would come in all hot and sweaty. As each one was turned loose, he would roll in the dirt and then drink his fill of cool water from the large round tank that was filled from the pump at the windmill. Then he would head for the barn and his ration of oats and hay. After all were fed, they were free to graze in the pasture until morning.
The back part of the barn, on a lower level, was a shedfor the cows. In the winter time they were secured in stanchions, fed and milked. However, in the summertime we simply milked them out in the corral. Most of them would stand to be milked, but a few had to be tied. I remember one cow in particular that we called Shorty. She was quite short, stocky and close to the ground. We never knew how much milk she would give -- sometimes a lot and other times very little. This strange mystery was solved one morning as I came down to milk a little early. One of the piglets from the nearby pigpen had wiggled through a hole in the fence and was busily gorging himself with milk from one of Shorty's spigots. Grandpa patched the hole in the fence and Shorty was again on a full milk production schedule.
The best part of the barn was the haymow. It coveredall the second floor of the barn and held a lot of hay. I never did know how many tons, but I know it was a lot I got the job of moving that hay back into the corners. That was dirty, hot work, and we were always glad when all the hay was in and we were ready for winter. Our barn didn't have a traveling hay fork like some, so we filled it with pitchforks and strong muscles.
Very often the haying work would be interrupted bythunderstorms. I recall one particular afternoon when a storm blew up and the men drove the horses under the sheltered driveway between the barn and the corncrib to wait out the storm. Marsh and I stayed up in the haymow and we lay on the fresh hay watching the downpour. Suddenly there was a blinding flash of lightning and a loud clap of thunder. For a moment we could neither hear nor see. As we gathered our senses together, we could see that lightning had struck the large willow tree just below the barn. There was a smoky blue haze rising from the tree stump and pieces of tree trunk and bark littered the barnyard. Grandpa came climbing up the wooden ladder to the loft yelling as he came "Are you kids all right?!" When we could catch our breath, we assured him that we were. Then Grandpa hurried out to examine the tree stump. It was still smoldering, but the rain quickly put out the fire. Even when it was dry, willow wood never did burn verywell.
Adjacent to the barn was the corncrib for storage of earcorn. The two were connected by a driveway for unloadingcorn and grain for the livestock. It also served as a work area to repair equipment and as a loafing spot for the various poultry that roamed the farmyard. We always had lots of pigeons on the farm. They usually nested on the ledges in the haymow and we could easily capture them. I once found a pure white one and made a pet of it like Mary's little lamb, it followed me to school and was a hit with my schoolmates. But when it began to roost in the cloakroom it had to go -- the teacher said so.