Cleaning out the barn

I love our old barn—I always have. When I was little my grandpa told me it was put together with square wooden pegs instead of nails. That seemed so ingenious and magical. And there’s a wall where we have graffiti from the early 1900’s. It fires my imagination, makes me feel connected to my heritage. It’s a long term (back burner—thought it was impossible) dream of mine to put animals back in the stalls. It’s a miracle to me just to be trying.

Some of the most connective, (gross, sweaty, stinky, annoying, exhausting), authentic work I did as a kid was in that barn. Some summers I had to help clean out the cow crap with my whole family. It was terrible, and it seemed to take forever, but at the end of the day I felt the shape of my work, my impact.

I LOVED when they put hay in the barn. Mostly the direction was to stay out of the way. Some years, though, I got to help take bales off the conveyor. I LOVED (love) feeling strong. I can still pull up: the sweet hay smell, cut grass, gasoline, sweat, lemonade. The dust motes orbiting in the sun shafts. The line of darkness from the edge of the window. The impossibility of raising my eyes from the floorboards if one of the young men talked to me (Ooh! Muscles!) Sideways looks once their attention was elsewhere. The joking/ the coordination/ the grumpiness.

Of course, the barn has always had its creepy bits, too—raccoon poop, a surprise possum skeleton, or even just the dark and spider webs.

Was looking at some old graffiti on the barn wall and thinking about the mix of my ancestral heritage. The hard work. The value of family. Care for the land. Also stories of drunkards and bastards. and stories that are missing for me: who had the land before Theron F? Was it a swamp or were there people here who were driven out? Tolono used to be a sundown town. What role did my family play? Lots to think about and work I need to do.