Old Barns of Miller County

I love old barns. I like their locations in relation to the other buildings on the farm. I like all those other buildings too, the two story houses with a porch on the front, and in the back on each side of the kitchen. They are in need of paint and the windows reflect the light as only the old-timey wavy glass can. The smaller out-buildings where baby chicks were kept warm and dry before being moved into a larger chicken house where they roosted at night and laid their eggs. At least the ones that escaped the frying pan. The tool shed with room for a tractor and its implements. All those places where a kid growing up on a farm could go exploring, or climbing up on the roof to survey the whole kingdom.

But the best building was the barn, with a loft for hay and rooms for grain and feed stored in barrels to keep out the mice. The walls were made out of boards with big cracks in between that you could look through. The doors were made out of boards too, with a hook to latch over a nail to keep it shut. One room was full of corn still on the cob, we called this room the crib. There were always mice, but we didn't worry about losing too much corn because of the 'wild' cats that lived in the barn. Once in awhile we could catch a glimpse of one of these cats, but they usually stayed out of sight. That was their nature and we didn't try to tame them. We needed them to stay at the barn and not come to the house. When we were milking the cow, they would come around hoping for a drink of milk. We would direct a stream of milk at them and they would catch most of it in their mouths. There was an old pie pan to pour some milk into when we were done. If we were lucky, we would find a litter of new little kittens once in awhile. The cow would go right into the stall and stand still while we milked her. She knew there would be a half-bucket of grain in the trough. Such comforting thoughts and pleasant memories.

The barn was always warm in the winter from the heat of the animals. There was a certain smell, not an unpleasant one either, although you would think it would be, considering some of the source. We would climb the straight-up-and-down wooden ladder to the loft to throw the hay down into the stanchions. I liked to listen to the sounds of the cows breathing and chewing their hay.

A barn was a farm's crowning glory. The whole family was prouder of a nice, big, well-built barn than they were of their house.

It's hard to pass by an old gray weather-beaten barn without stopping to take a picture. There is something sad about it standing out in the field all by itself, and most times, no longer being used. It's a symbol of a different era when the family farm was so important. A place where the entire family spent their days, a place that provided most everything they needed. It was home, and they left only to go to church and school in the community, family get-togethers and occasionally, to town when they had produce to sell, or needed a thing or two.

An old barn, a thing of beauty, a simpler life.
Doris Martin Wiggins, 2007

 Doris Martin Wiggins
Doris Martin Wiggins
Doris Martin Wiggins, daughter of Paul and Hazel Wall Martin was raised on a farm on the Saline Creek near Tuscumbia. She graduated from Eldon High School and lives with her husband, Jack, in a country house near McGirk in Moniteau County, Missouri.

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