At first, the big barn past the granary was a huge mysterious empty red building to a boy of seven, but it eventually became a dreamer’s playground and a giant five-story-high castle where adventure waited just beyond the door of imagination. Mom said the barn was the biggest in the county when Grandpa built it around 1903.
The barn was a three-part structure: the big hay barn, the animal barn, and the sheep shed on the north end. The sheep shed looked like an add-on because it was accessible only through one open end in the barnyard and a small door cut through the wall at the bottom of the hayloft.
In the big hay barn, great hand-hewn beams framed the haylofts. The floor of the barn could accommodate a tractor and wagonload of hay, which would be lifted by a rope with large hooks from a trolley on a track high in the top of the barn. With hardly any imagination at all, that rope also became a jungle vine for “Tarzan” to swing across the beams and drop into the hay.
In the animal barn, a small open doorway led into the cattle section where Grandpa had four stalls for the big workhorses. I could sense the ghosts of cows standing placidly with their necks trapped in the wooden stanchions as I walked along the long rows where the milk cows would have waited for Grandpa to come with his one-legged stool and milk pail.
In the south end of the animal part of the barn there were two box stalls where riding horses had been kept. Huge sliding doors on the east and west walls opened so wagon loads of hay and straw could be brought in to pitch to the lofts above. We got an old truck so Daddy, my sister Jan, and I could hand gather fresh cut hay, and then use pitchforks to toss it up into the loft. I was too small to toss up the hay, but I could help move it back from the edge of the loft.
THE BIG RED BARN
The big red barn was the biggest of all;
It was a wonder-filled castle five stories tall.
There were hidden doors; it was a mysterious place.
A boy could disappear without a trace.
There were three sections for animals, and one just for hay.
There were endless opportunities for a boy to play.
The big red barn was the place for me.
It was a place to set my imagination free.
Did Grandpa have sheep? There was a “sheep shed”.
And plenty of stalls where horses were fed.
There were many stanchions all in a row,
How did the cows know which place to go?
The big barn was painted red I’m told;
The paint was cheap and prevented mold.
The sheep shed was an unpainted grey;
It must have been built a different day.
I swung on the hay rope from side to side;
I hung from the trolly, and went for a ride.
I liked to jump and bounce in the hay.
The barn was a wonderful place to play!