Even as a child, I had a fascination for old barns. I didn’t have a camera to record my memories…but I can still “see” those old structures. There were no freeways back then. We traveled on two lane state roads. These were the same roads my grandfather helped to build in the 1920s.
Sometimes our summer trips from Miami to Athens were in our car, but we often took the Greyhound bus. I always had my eyes peering closely to the window just to spot an old barn. I loved to imagine what it would have been like to live on a farm.
It was also fun to look at the words and pictures painted on the sides or roofs of the remaining barns. Today, those old paints are faded but still show the ads for tobacco, patented medicines, Coca Cola and tourist destinations. William G. Simmonds realized these barns were fading from our landscapes. His photographs of the old structures are memorialized forever in his book and he refers to the barns as “vanishing American landmarks”.
My first encounter with a real barn could have been a catastrophe! I was about eight years old. We had gone back to Georgia for a week. My excitement could hardly be contained when I heard we were going to my cousins’ farm. Can you imagine the basket of ripe blackberries I picked?! Can you hear my screams when I saw a snake and dropped my basket?!
My attention was quickly diverted because I saw the prettiest cat going into the barn. I decided to make friends but as I reached to pet the beautiful black fluffy tail, I heard everyone shouting for me to get away. Ok, before you laugh about my ignorance, let me remind you I was a little girl from the big city. How was I supposed to know I was getting ready to pet a skunk?!
My fascination with barns continues over 50 years later. We are fortunate to live close to a rural area in Washington State. So, I’m always ready for a ride in the country. And once again, I am peering out the window to spot an old barn!
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