Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Old Barn Handle

My hand grasped the hand. Cold metal in my hand. Twisting the handle, I opened the white door leading to the cow stable. At once the smell of cows, dust, hay and straw assailed me. Thick cobwebs heavy with dust hung on the old cow yolks hanging, hanging behind the cement feed trough. The cows were brought into the milking parlor. The yokes were placed around their necks holding them in place. Food was placed in front of them to occupy them while they were milked. A cement trench ran behind the cows easily mucked out after the milking was finished.

To the left under the stairs was a feed nook now a nook containing bags covered with dust from the loft overhead. To the back of the cow stable was the area Dad stored his tractors. I remember when he got his two red Massie Harris tractors. My favorite was the little one. In the corner an old green bicycle sat more tan than green draped in a cloak of dust. Small tools and old toys sat gathering more recent deposits.

I often walked into this part of the barn across the dirt floor to the two feed bins. Dad would harvest grain then shoot the grain into the bins from the wagon filling them with grain for the livestock. When the bins were empty, they became wonderful playhouses. Dad hung the old horse gear long out of use at the end of the bins next to big heavy door there to accommodate big equipment. I loved to push the huge door open. Dad would usually have a hand on it above my blond curls lending some unknown assistance.

The cow stable was at the other end of the barn. Cows chewed the cud ignoring onlookers. The smell of manure and dirt floor permeating the air. A pen butted up to the stable. Once in awhile, Dad would separate out a calf or a cow and her calf placing them in the pen.

A cement water trough sat beside the stable and pen providing water for the livestock. In later years Dad would throw a fish in the trough. We would stand by the trough hoping for a view the fish that went into the water small and over time grew to great length.

The wooden manger at the end of the stable was filled from the hay loft above. Big holes in the floor made feeding the cattle below easy. Dad often warned his small daughter not to walk near the holes. I did anyway.

Going into the hay loft was entering a world of imagination and play. Big doors at each end of the barn could be lowered to provide ventilation for the the fresh bales of hay. Magically light filled the dark loft when both doors were lowered. Dust floated on the air. A smaller door on the side of the barn and the big door to the front of the barn were opened when baling time rolled around. The red elevator carried the bales to the loft where they were stacked. Hay on the west side of the barn; straw to east side. Trap doors covered holes in the floor of the loft, places where Dad could toss straw down to the cow stable.

Best of all, the best part of the barn was the swing. The swing rope was a originally part of the mechanism that lifted bales from wagons when horses were used for harvest moving the bales from one side of the barn to the other. Everyone who came to the farm at one time or another had taken a turn on the swing. Dad rigged the rope so the swing would automatically pull to the other side of the barn loft. We kids climbed up as high as we could on the bales, jumped onto the swing and flew across to the other side. Hours were spent flying across the barn. Hours of play for a farm girl.

Behind the barn was the barnyard separated from the yard by gates, gates that held many small children trying to catch a glimpse of cow or maybe a tiny lamb. A gate that held a teenage girl looking for her horse.

I spent many hours in that barn. Many of those hours were spent with my father following him from chore to chore. He was never impatient, always showing me new things.

I wish I could turn that old metal door handle once more. Perhaps I did today.

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