Monday, April 15, 2019

Barns ~ my column from Sunday's paper

The recent rains have felt tropical.  One moment the sun was blazing with white clouds drifting across an azure sky and the next it was raining so hard I had to drive with my emergency flashers blinking.

The humidity felt like a steam room. It reminded me of Panama in 1971. The light was incredible. I shot several pictures for the paper but also some for myself. One of the last scenes that caught my attention was an old barn just off of Bryan Road in Sumiton. Did I mention that I love barns?

I had a few minutes to kill, so I pulled over to the edge of the road and off switched the engine. My boots crunched on the gravel as I walked around trying to get the right angle. 

Over to the right, I saw the landowner about to walk out to make sure I wasn't up to no good. I held the camera up and pointed to the barn. He got the message and went on about his work. In the past, I’d passed the barn a gazillion times, but the light never seemed to be right. Today, it was. 

The pasture was full of grass with yellow flowers. Later, when I did a Google search, I found the grass was called buttercup flowers. I’ve always called daffodils buttercups, but these weren’t daffodils.

When I was a kid, we had a tool shed, but we never had a barn. I’d seen hundreds of barns on the roadside with “See Rock City” painted on the tin roof, but I’d never been inside one until the first time I visited my cousin Marvin. His family lived on a farm, and they had a barn out in their pasture. 

I think the structure had been red at one time, but time had stripped it down to the color of ash. Inside were stacks of hay for the horses and cattle. Their barns were their own bouquet of earthy smells - fresh hay, dried corn, cow manure, and other smells that I could not name. 

My cousin and I spent time in that barn working. Some would consider the chores we did backbreaking, but I enjoyed the labor. After work, we found time to jump from the hayloft onto piles of hay. Those summers working on the farm were fond childhood memories.

Fast forward to the first time I ever set foot on the property where Jilda and I now live. It was in the spring of 1974 (I think.) I parked by the mailbox, and we walked down the long drive to the old house on the property. The hollow was filled with dogwoods in full bloom. They looked like clouds beneath the canopy.

At the end of the road were ancient oak and hickory trees. Behind the old house stood a red barn that looked older than father time. There was a cottonwood tree next to the barn, and the sticky lavender blooms smelled like grapes. 

Jilda and I both fell in love with the property that day, but I think it was the barn that spoke to me on a seminal level. It's like the faded wood was saying: Hey, this is important – take a moment to consider my role in the fabric of your life. 

We both knew at that moment that this is where we wanted to be. We were broker than the 10 Commandments then, but I felt somewhere in my core that someday this place would belong to us. It was a twisted road, but it happened.

Did I mention that I love barns?


  1. Precious memories. So very precious.

  2. My Aunt had an old barn on her property. Your description of the smells is spot on. She had no use for the barn, but it was like a play ground for kids.

  3. Oh yes, to combine a phrase:Something there is about a barn!
    Love it
    Sherry & jack

  4. I was hoping to see the barn as your eyes saw it, but this looks more like a scribble picture of a barn. What kind of filter did you use?

  5. I see the frayed rope hanging there. It was used to pull bales of hat up and for my uncles to slide down.

  6. I always called them buttercups too.
    "broker than the ten commandments".hahaha. I've never heard that one. I just had a good giggle.

  7. Methinks I need to spend more time on back roads.

  8. This is so nice to read and, even though it took a while, your dreams were realized and you could buy your palace with the barn. Love the photo that you made look like a sketch


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