Old barns fascinate me. Brick, block, wood or stone, their homely shape and voluminous interiors speak of hard work and careful husbandry. Standing inside a vacant barn is a sensory smorgasbord—the faint odors of sweet feed, hay, horses and cattle linger, the lofts filter sunlight softly through drifting dust, swallows dart and sing in the eaves and for an imaginative mind, shadows of thin, muscular men and sturdy women seem to pass just out of sight. Sadly, these monuments to the industrious farmers of the past are becoming obsolete, no longer needed for their massive haymows or long lines of milking stanchions.
Farming has changed significantly
Haystacks, carefully raked and stacked to withstand rain, wind and snow, were replaced with neat square bales produced by chugging balers trailing behind smoking tractors. The square bales are quickly going the way of the stacks as the large round bales provide faster processing and require no building for storage. The popularity of round balers has signaled the sure death of hundreds of hay barns across our state.
One kind of barn is still holding on in some regions: tobacco barns. When I see a barn hanging full of gold-green, upside-down plants, I smile. I know fully the dangers of tobacco use; we raised tobacco for several years and regretfully gave it up when our consciences could no longer take the strain of knowing we were contributing to a known health risk. But I still appreciate a field of tall, lush tobacco plants topped with a crown of bright pink flowers; I still like seeing those barns of golden leaf, and I miss the excitement and music of the annual tobacco auctions. Today I see fewer and fewer tobacco fields, and many of those airy drying sheds and tobacco barns will probably go the way of the dairy and hay barns.
I am sad when I see the skeletal remains of a barn etched against a horizon, the tin roof flapping in the wind. I realize that time marches on and I try to march along with it, although I am often looking over my shoulder at what we have left behind and wondering if the changes are worth the price.
Published in the September 2013 issue of Two Lane Livin'.
Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.