For as long as I could remember the stately barn pictured at left sat on a hillside north of the Kansas Forestry, Fish & Game complex near Pratt, Ks, located in what had once been the Saratoga community. (See "Cemetery on a Hill," 2-7-2013 in the blog archives.) In September of 2013 my husband and I paused to take several photographs of the barn. While traveling the road recently, I was saddened to see that it is gone. In the past, most farms had a wooden barn, with a loft for hay and the main floor for milking. Few of those old barns remain.
A friend recently posted a photograph of his old family barn. While it lacks the cupola of the Saratoga structure, it has the same "barn roof" and lean-to on one side, characteristics common to barns in the area. It also has the loft door and the overhanging roof on which a pulley apparatus would have been used to lift hay to the second level.
Sadly, it was the second picture of the barn posted by my friend that motivated me to write this blog. Sometimes barns are torn down when the farmstead is abandoned in order to make way for more crop land. Sometimes the barns are left to decay and rot, eventually collapsing. However, sometimes the old wooden structures burn.
|The fire that destroyed the Moore family barn|
Fire is what took down the Moore barn. A structure that has stored decades of hay, which has often become packed in the walls, as well as years of fine grain dust, presents fuel for a hot fire. In addition, the early shingles were usually wood, as was the siding.
Some fires are set intentionally as a quick way to be rid of an unused structure, but other barns are still in use when they catch fire. By the time the local fire truck can reach the blaze, it is often too late to save the building, and the firemen are engaged in trying to save other buildings on the farm by limiting the spread of the fire.
|The Beck Family barn|
My family's barn was very similar to the barns pictured above. After it was gone, I created this pastel painting of the old barn where my brother and I (as well as my father, his siblings, and many cousins) had played and where my father and his father had milked cows. Our hay was stacked on the sides of the loft to leave room in the center for a basketball court, the baskets hung on the walls under the peaked roof. If you could dribble the basketball from one end to the other on the warped old board floor, a polished gym floor seemed easy! The barn was home to generations of farm cats who kept themselves fed on barn mice. The loft also stored old furniture and trunks holding interesting things which supplied props for young girls playing house.
|The new Beck-Fenwick barn|
Before my father's death, he had commented on the sadness of seeing abandoned farmsteads with dilapidated barns slowly collapsing. To satisfy his wishes, we had sold the barn to a lumber merchant who disassembled it and sold the weathered lumber to people who used it in construction and decorating, appreciating the naturally aged wood.
When my husband and I rescued the old homestead, we asked the contractor to built our new metal barn on the site of the old barn's foundation, and we mimicked the appearance. Unfortunately, our barn lacks the childhood romance of the old loft, and it has never held a cow!