Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Barn Burner

If you’re thinking that sounds like the name of a country song, you’d be correct, Jason Michael Carroll to be exact, love him. That song happened to be the soundtrack of our evening when just that happened, we had a real life barn burning minus the skinny dipping and moonshine. Man, I feel so country girlesque saying barn burning…ooooh say it again(name that movie)…..barn burning.

Here's the before picture:

This WAS the view from our kitchen table. I love the rustic, quaint look of this old barn. Makes me imagine what this place used to be like back in the day when it was a real live farm operation, not just a crazy woman collecting odd and unusual animals strictly for petting and then blogging about it. It’s been there since at least the late 1800’s and just having it in view from my kitchen makes me feel like an old school prairie woman and then I laugh out loud as I picture myself in a long dress and bonnet, churning butter. You’ll notice that the past 100+ years have taken its toil on our friend the barn and it’s leaning quite precariously. It’s been leaning a little more every year and finally the powers that be (GI Joe and his dad, the men of the homestead) decided it just wasn’t safe anymore. I don’t see the problem, I mean really, Italy ’s Leaning Tower of Pisa has been leaning since 1173, ours still has at least another 600 years by my calculations. They were worried that a good storm would come along and cause it to collapse, not caring if there was a peacock, kitty, horse or human in it and that would be dangerous. I suggested just putting caution tape around the doorways to prohibit entry and just leaving it alone but apparently my opinion as Prairie Princess is not highly valued. How rude. There’s been talk of having the local fire department come out and do a controlled burn on it for quite awhile but I kept hoping it was just talk. Imagine my surprise when on Sunday, GI Joe informed me that the barn was going to be burned down on Tuesday. Ummm…excuse me…WHAT? I think I was purposely left out of the loop on this one for fear that I would stage a protest complete with picket signs and media coverage (and you know I thought about it) . So I had only 3 days to prepare myself emotionally and mentally for this monumental event. Sunday, I forced the kids to take part in a barn blitz photo shoot telling them repeatedly that they would thank me for capturing this part of their childhood so that when they are older and telling their children about the hours they spent in their secret hideout in the hayloft, or finding the peacock eggs, or petting baby kittens in there, they would have pictures to show them. My children are apparently not forward thinkers as this didn’t entice them much but they did begrudgingly cooperate and someday, SOMEDAY they WILL thank me.
Really, they were THRILLED about this photo shoot..REALLY

In the days leading up to the dreadful B Day I took a lot of pictures, annoyed GI Joe by repeatedly asking him if he was sad that a piece of his childhood was going to go up in smoke, and requesting that he cut out sections of barn board for me to be used in creative projects memorializing the barn. One might’ve thought that GI Joe would be somewhat sentimental and sad about the fact that this part of his heritage was being destroyed but no, not so much. He’s such a guy.

And HELLO COWBOY, what a guy he is. Whew...

Finally, Tuesday evening came. The kids did one final sweep of the barn and rescued a nest of baby barn swallows. And by rescue I mean, got the nest down from a rafter only to drop it killing 2 of the 3 baby birds, leaving one orphaned bird who will now die anyway because his mom can’t find him and I’m sorry but I draw the line at letting the kids chew up worms and regurgitate them for the baby bird. Call PETA on me if you must but it’s how I roll. On a happier note, I made Smores cookies for the occasion as I thought it fitting. I had envisioned us sitting on our lawn chairs as a family, eating Smores cookies, while we watched the fire department burn our beloved barn, reminiscing about memories made there. As usual, the only thing that went according to plan was the eating of the Smores cookies, and boy were they delicious! The kids each wanted to watch it from their own vantage point, alone with their thoughts, GI Joe chose to watch while trimming the horse’s hooves and weeding the garden (I use the term garden loosely, there’s not much left now that it’s been “weeded”), and I chose to watch it from the comfort of my chaise lounger in the backyard. The fire department rolled up and I heard things like, “Hey Prairie Princess! Stay away from that barbed wire okay?” and “Hey PP, if you don’t want your llamas roasted then can you have them move?” and on and on. (Editors sidenote: Unfortunately, they don’t actually address me as Prairie Princess but I really wish they would.) Our town’s volunteer fire department doesn’t take their job lightly and they also enjoy giving me a hard time. So what if I’m the only one they’ve ever had to rescue from a barbed wire fence? ( Or the only one they’ve had to tell to move their llamas? Geesh people. What would I have to blog about if I were normal?
The fire chief, a friend of ours, came and told us how it was going to work and that he would try to make the fire hot enough that the smoke would go over our house instead of directly towards our house. Who knew you could control such things? Then he told us he was training some “greenhorns” so they were going to take their time. I considered running down the hill screaming “Stop! There’s been a mistake, we were just kidding, we don’t want to burn it down!” but using every ounce of willpower I had, I refrained. Probably good because given my history with the VMFD they wouldn’t have taken me seriously. Finally, all firefighters were in position, and smoke slowly started billowing out of the barn and I started tearing up. Not from the smoke inhalation, but just because I knew it was really happening.
The beginning of the end

It wasn’t long before the entire thing was engulfed in flames and my heart broke in a million tiny pieces. Why? It’s just a building you might say. A building yes, but it was more than that. It was part of our home, it was the first thing you’d see when driving down the gravel road towards our house, it was a part of the childhood that shaped my GI Joe into the country boy that he is, and part of the childhood my kids have been privileged to have. Overanalyze much? No, not me.

As the smoke billowed over our house, we watched in awe as that old barn stayed standing much longer than we thought it would, it finally collapsed on itself with a loud bang…and I SCREAMED. It sounded like a gunshot! Even above the roar of the flames, the firefighters heard it and looked up the hill towards us shaking their heads, and GI Joe laughed until he cried. Really, I think it was just an excuse, he was crying about the barn just like the rest of us. Speaking of crying, I found Blade sitting on an overturned feedbucket, watching the fire burning, shoulders shaking, and tears running down his face. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one taking this hard. I felt his pain, rubbed his back a little, and then gave him another Smores cookies. Nothing mends a broken heart like a mothers love, I mean cookies.
Burn baby burn

In less than an hour, 100 years of history and memories was nothing more than a small fire and a pile of rubble. The fire department started packing up so I ventured over to where they were. I was introduced to the crew as “the barbed wire girl”. Awesome, glad to hear my reputation precedes me. I need to work on getting my picture on the fire station wall for that one. After that I felt justified in asking the chief to get everyone together for a group photo. It helps to have connections because he immediately got on his radio and said “I need everyone back down here now and make sure your hair and make up is good.” I offered my lip gloss just in case someone didn’t have any handy. You should’ve seen the looks he was getting as these hot, sweaty, and sooty firefighters trudged back down the hill only to discover that they were reporting for a group photo…priceless. They drew the line when I asked them to do a pyramid though. I love my fire department even if I am “the barbed wire fence girl”. Then my mother in law started shamelessly promoting my blog to all of the firefighters and telling them that their picture would end up there and that they should read it and on and on. God bless my mother in law who I think is a tiny bit proud that her son turned this city girl country and now there’s a blog about it. So if any of my new firefighter friends are reading this…this one’s for you. And also, sorry I thought that one really short guy was a kid tagging along with his dad or something, but seriously he is really little and he did ask J the firefighter for a piggyback ride, what’s a girl to think?
Then it was done, finished, finito, we bid farewell to the barn. And with that I went home and showered off the campfire smell I’d acquired, ate another Smores cookie, went to bed and prayed that I’d wake up and find it was all a bad dream and that the barn was still standing, straight and tall. Obviously, I was more than a little disappointed to wake up this morning to see nothing but smoke and ashes where the barn used to be. Don’t worry a couple more Smores cookies eased my pain… a little. I’m still bitter about the whole deal and when GI Joe told me I could help him clean up the rubble, I told him I want nothing to do with it as it was against my wishes in the first place. Besides that I don’t want to rip my pretty pink work gloves.
I’m not the only one missing the barn, the horses were having a memorial service there this morning with one of them standing directly in the middle of the rubble pile, which concerned us since it was still smoldering, with the others circled around her, heads hanging down. It was as if they were saying their goodbyes too. I’ll tell you what though I am NOT sharing my Smores cookies with them, no matter how sad they are.

Before life as he knew it went up in a cloud of smoke

Bye Bye barn, you’ll be missed.
The new view and I gotta be honest I don't like it one bit.
But between my Smores cookies, my memories, the support of you my beloved readers and THIS guy...

I think I'll survive the trials and tribulations of life out here on the prairie. It's not for the faint of heart that's for sure.

And should you have a broken heart that needs mending here is the Smores cookie recipe (thanks to my friend Annette for sharing this gem with me). Do yourself a favor and use the WHOLE king sized Hershey’s bar and any extra chocolate you have lying around, you’re worth it:


  1. I totally understand about your heartbreak. Its hard to say goodbye to a good, old friend. But I have two questions...1) what are you going to put in its place and 2) what are you going to use the old boards for? When the barn that my mom grew up with was taken down, she took some boards and made a picture frame and put a big picture of the barn in it.

  2. Hi Laurel-
    In answer to your questions 1) nothing is going in it's place, another barn will be built eventually but it will be in a different spot. 2) I am going to do the exact same thing your mom did with the barn boards and maybe a few other things. I had him cut out a lot for me. :)

  3. Ha! Isn't the "really short guy"-Mike Merritt's son-Jason?
    The last pic of GI Joe looks like something you would see on a cd cover, minus the National Guard shirt~he sings, right?