Weary barns. Some still standing straight and strong with weathered sides. Others are decrepit and starting to fall down or are nearly down. Yes, these old barns dot our county and were once busy, active structures. But today they do look weary and tired.
As we look at the old barns around the county, we see some that have stood the rigors of time fairly well. They have had a good roof that has kept the years of rainfall from dripping down into the building and causing timbers to rot and weaken. While their sides are dark and weathered, they still stand and can be safe structures.
Other old barns have not fared so well. Maybe it was a poor roof or foundation or other cause, but they are on the way down. They may be leaning one way or another with doors and windows off, and they do look sad. They say, "we have had our day."
Each one of these old barns, regardless of condition, has a story to tell. Back in a day of many small farms, each one had a barn. Most of them were small, while others larger and, for their time, quite impressive. At some time in their life, they were a busy, active place. Livestock of various kinds were housed, fed and cared for in them.
Our county was dotted with many small dairy farms in the 1930s, '40s and '50s and even before that time. Their barns would house the dairy cows and young stock. Before dairy farm inspection became more strict, these barns might also include the draft horses, maybe a couple of pigs or two or three beef cattle. That is not possible today.
Cows were kept in stanchions that didn't allow the freedom of movement in today's free-stall or tie-stall barns. They were watered with drinking cups in front of every two cows, so they had access to water all the time. Feed was put in the manger in front of them.
Often these old barns were a place for a family gathering. Children would enjoy playing in front of the cows where their Mom or Dad could watch them. Hay was stored in the haymow above the cows, and which was often a great place to play in the soft hay that was stored loose and made a good place to jump.
Each cow in these small herds had a name. These could be family names or maybe a neighbor's name or some other reason was found to give that particular cow a certain name. Families would often get attached to certain cows that had good dispositions and were friendly and easy to handle.
So if these weary, old barns could talk, they would have an interesting history to tell us. Part of that history would be to say, "we have done our job and have had our day."
One would ask why aren't more of these old barns kept up and maintained? Some, because of the type of structure, have historical value. Many of them are fairly large buildings and expensive to maintain. To put a new roof on one would cost quite a bit of money. Paint or new siding is expensive.
So unless there is some use for these barns that has economic value, they are left to shift for themselves. Since they are still standing on a property, they might add to the taxes for that property. Just how much these taxes would be is a question for the county auditor.
Next time you wander around our county, take note of the old barns that you will see. Notice the different types of structures and the way they are built. Think about the interesting history that each one of those barns could tell if it could talk.
Then, if you have a lot of money, buy a farm with one of those barns and restore it. You might enjoy it.
Parker is an independent writer for the Tribune.