Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Old Red Barn



Thoughts of childhood days on the farm in rural, southern Ontario often come to mind. On a cold winter’s day, I would push open the wooden door of the old, red barn and bask in the coziness of its dim interior. Pungent smells greeted me. As I made my way down the aisle, I would stop every few stalls and greet my animal friends. The black and white Holstein cows stood, twenty-eight in number, along the corridor. Some were ornery creatures, some meek and mild. Much like humans, each had her own distinct personality and each had been given a name. I can’t recall all of their names. Grandpa bought and sold cows frequently. But there are a special few that remain as vivid in my mind today as they were forty years ago. My favorite was Betty, the best milk producer of the dairy herd. Like most cows, she had big brown eyes and long lashes. She had distinctive black markings on a white background - unusual markings in large splotches down her sides and rump. On her forehead, was a large black spot with a white star in the center. Whenever I entered the barn, Betty would give a low moo, as if saying hello. As I approached, she’d turn her head, watching my every move. I would step in beside her and scratch her forelock. She would close her eyes and rub against me; delighted someone was giving her attention.

Behind the cow stalls, old Oscar, the Holstein bull stood next to the window to the horse barn. Now Oscar could be an ornery and temperamental creature, but he had a soft spot for this wee girl. Often, I would go into the horse barn and let myself into Oscar’s stall. He would turn his head, blow through his nose and snort. He never moved. This was somewhat miraculous as when the men tried to move him he would snort, kick and shake his head angrily. I have seen him lift my uncle off his feet while trying to lead Oscar to the creek for water. Today, I look back on my foolishness and wonder why I wasn’t killed. Possibly Oscar understood that I was only a child. Or possibly there was a soft side to his nature not understood by adults.

The calf pen was always a delight to visit. I loved to pet the calves and take them their daily pail of milk after they were weaned. They would suck the milk through their noses and when finished, butt the pail urging it to produce more, just as they had their mothers while they were suckling. One day, a calf pulled the pail from my hands pushed her head into it and it became stuck, the bail clinging to her ears. I chuckle remembering the time I had retrieving that pail.

At the back of the barn was the pigpen. Usually there were three to four sows housed here. One of my favorite things was watching the mother pig suckling somewhere from eight to ten piglets. She’d lie on her side, eyes closed, while her babies squealed and fought over a teat.

The only thing I didn’t like about the barn was the silo. Each Fall, the corn was harvested, put through the corn chopper and blown into the forty-foot silo. This would provide ensilage for the cattle during the harsh Ontario winter. One cool November day, my uncle asked me to go up into the silo and throw down the ensilage. I agreed. When the task was completed, I stepped to the entrance to descend the ladder. As I looked out, the ground swirled. Fear slithered along my spine. I stood, paralyzed. There was no way I could get down. I waited, rather impatiently, until my uncle came to my rescue. I never entered that silo again and today I still have a fear of heights.

The haymow was one of my favorite places. When I was very young, the hay was cut, thrown onto a wagon with racks, taken to the barn and pitched into the upper level of the barn by hand. In later years, it was baled. I remember helping stack the bales in the mow. Even today, the fragrance of freshly mown hay carries me back over the years to the haymow of the old, red barn.

The straw stack behind the barn was a delight to us children. When playing hide-and-go-seek, we would wiggle into the prickly straw and cover ourselves. This was the best hiding place of all. When found, we would emerge, straw clinging to our clothes and hair. If Grandpa found us burrowing into the straw stack, we would get a sound scolding. This never stopped us from returning to our refuge time after time.

One memory that I look back on with fondness involved my favorite cow, Betty. It was a dark, rainy day. When I entered the barn, instead of the usual low, gentle moo, Betty was bawling ferociously. I approached slowly, wondering what on earth could be wrong. One glance told me that Betty was in trouble. She was in hard labor and her calf was arriving in a breach position. I burst through the door of the house and in short, panting gasps told my uncle what was happening. We hurried to the barn and with some hard work, shared by human and animal, a healthy young heifer was born. That was my first glimpse of the birthing process. What a thrill to watch a new life enter the world. The calf stood on shaky legs. Betty heaved to her feet and coaxed the calf to suckle. An awesome experience for a small girl of ten.

Recently, I took a drive to the rural community where I grew up. I stopped my car on the gravel road and sat, looking at that old, red barn. Yes, it’s still standing, though the red paint has faded and it is somewhat in disrepair. But for a few moments, the sounds and smells of that cozy structure whirled through my mind. I will never forget the good times I spent in that old, red barn.

Copyright © 1999 - 2008 Mary M. Alward

48 comments:

Sioux said...

Neat to go back "home". As I drive by our old place...we never lived in the country, but we had a place. It's nostalgic to see how much is different~how much is the same. Remembering riding my horse in to the woods and telling her all my "secrets".

Denise said...

Thanks for sharing your memories, how precious my friend.

Marcel said...

Mary,

A very nice story. I’m glad I swung around this evening to see if you had anything new. What a treat.

I too remember a many found things about the barns I grew up around. Unlike you I loved it when I was told to go into the silo or toss hey down from the loft. Or even to go up on the roof for some task. I loved heights than and still do. I know it is crazy!!

Also unlike you we never had pigs. I was seldom around then as a kid. Cattle, sheep, goats, horses, chickens and rabbits. I could tell you stories about all of the above mentioned but I’d be hard pressed to come up with a pig story.

Thanks for the nice story and I hope you had a great Mothers Day!!

Anvilcloud said...

What different lives rural kids lead. There's a kind of richness there.

Jackie said...

When we would leave Ontario and come west for the summer, we would always stop by my Dad's oldest sister's farm for a lengthy stay. I used to love climbing into the hay loft and laying in the hay. It was so very restful, the milk cows moving softly in their stalls below. Thanks for the memories.

Mary Isabella said...

My first visit to this blog of yours. I really like what you are posting here. Everything is so neat..........

Mississippi Songbird said...

Lovesd this post of memories.. Thanks so much for sharing.

Thru Pink Curtains said...

Awesome story, romantic adventure looking back. I always had a fear of cows because one chased me when i was young!!! thanks for the story..

Jeanne said...

I love your journal and all that you share.
Blessings
Jeanne
Ontario Canada

Stacey's Treasures said...

Wow Mary, You are a fabuluose writer! I could see & smell everthing you wrote about so vividly.
Thanks for the wonderfull post!!!

LZ Blogger said...

Mary ~ Many wonderful memories get even better over the years don't they? ~ jb///

Deborah said...

What a sweet post. Thanks for visiting my site.

Blessings!

mirage2g said...

What a lovely painting!(is it yours=?)

I grew up in the rural areas of the Philippines too and its really peaceful and simple. Thanks for your story...

Grand Life said...

Thanks for your comments on my blog. I love your beautiful blog design. Loved your post about the big red barn. My grandfather also had a barn that we played in. Later it was torn down and my cousin built his house there but it is still as clear in my memory as if it was still there.
I'll visit often.
Judy

Pam said...

Great childhood memories! I was raised a city girl but always loved visiting relatives farms.

mimi11460 said...

you have have a nice place,I wish i can come and visit your country....

Tina Coruth said...

Mary,

What a lovely story. As a city girl, I am in awe of all you did and saw when you growing up.

I enjoyed reading this very much.

Love & hugs,
Tina

Ruth said...

Oh, that all sounds wonderful!

Tea Time and Roses said...

Beautiful memories...thanks so much for sharing.

Smiles...

Beverly

Kathiesbirds said...

This memory is a treasue! Thanks for sharing it with us. I have memories of cows, barns and hay also. This is a well written account. My grandfather's old barn is gone now, as are so many fromthat time. Too sad, I say. Perhaps one day all that will remain are memories, paintings and photographs!

Peggy said...

what wonderful childhood memories. I am trying to make those with my grandchildren.

CONNIE'S THOUGHTS FROM THE HEART said...

This writing brough back many memories of my childhood. Thank you so much. I love your memories. connie from Texas

bernard n. shull said...
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Keith said...

Mary, I say 'bienvenida' to you as you have come to my blog. Here, I get blessed in that I can read the wonderful thoughts you have chosen to share.

Thank you for comiung by, and I appreciate all prayers.

Rambling Woods said...

Oh this brought back wonderful memories of visiting a cousin's farm in Rushford NY...The cows, the calves, the barn and the hay. I can almost smell it...Michelle

Crystal said...

I just found your blog via Susie's Space and your writing about the barn carried me right back to my grandfather's barn. It's been on my mind alot this summer - so many fond memories and re-awakened senses. Thank you for taking me back 45 years.

Charlotte said...

What a wonderful story. You made it really "come alive". I used to visit my uncle's farm in Oklahoma when I was young. This brought back memories. Thank you for visiting my blog. I'm glad I found yours.

Arija said...

Oh, I love, love, love your blog. I too remenber gathering the hay on a wagon and riding on top of the hay-wain to the barn as a small girl. The sweet smell of loosemeadow hay as one fed an arm full to each cow. Now we've gone through small square bales, big round bales, plactic wrapped silage bales to huge square bales that break the forks off the tractor.
My arm is black and blue from bucket feeding my granddaughter's calf while she was away as well as three orphan lambs. I would not have it any other way. We've lived in cities around the world, even had a son in Montreal, but I would not budge from the farm for all the gold in China. May I come back and visit? I do miss the northern Hemisphere so.

Mobunny said...

So you come visit my blog, then I come to visit yours.... and the very first picture I see is JUST like the one we'd like to put on our 'empty' cabinet! I googled farm murals last night and saw some pretty ones......but this one outshines them all!

Glenda said...

Mary, what a joy to read about your childhood and the old red barn. My own childhood way down south of you was similar and the barn was a favorite place of mine. The kittens in the hay loft and the calves in the pens and we had chickens that laid eggs in the nests hung on inside barn walls. Thanks for sharing such beautiful memories and for visiting my blog, www.profilesandpedigrees.blogspot.com

Kalianne@BygoneBeauty said...

A delightful story and I love red barns - not something we see very often in Australia.

Kalianne@BygoneBeauty said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Grand Life said...

Thanks for visiting my blog. I loved your post about "the Red Barn". I also grew up on a farm and my Grandfathers barn has been replaced by a cousins house but I still remember every nook and cranny. It was great to grow up on a farm.
Judy

Steven said...

A very nice blog and this story! Steven

Ele at abitofpinkheaven said...

how wonderful that that old red barn is standing. Our stately barn was hit by a tornado and a red steel structure stands in it's place. Not the same. Great memories you've shared. Thanks for your kind words on nmy blog.

Judith said...

I'm going to try again here, Mary.
I went back to your post on Dawn's blog because the only way I know how to get here is by clicking your name on your comment somewhere, and then I goofed and left a comment for you at Dawn's. I so enjoyed reading about your red barn days, and the animals, especially the bull. I am sure those times were the best of our lives.

After my GrandPa in Texas died, the town named a road that goes through his homestead for him. To people there now, it is only McMillan street, but I know it ran down along where the house was, and went by the hog pens, and then the barn. Thank you for reminding me of that.

Melissa Wertz said...

Hi Mary! You have a beautiful blog. And beautiful stories!

Thanks for stopping by my site. To answer your question, I think the wellies just give me more of a barrier than hiking boots and bare skin. ;-)

I have always seen non poisonous snakes in my yard when working, until the last year. I hope that the copperheads are not running them off.

bj said...

Memories are so very precious and I think we are so blessed when we have precious memories to hold on to.
Thanks so much for stopping by to see my BLUE MONDAY offerings. I hope you will come back often.
love, bj

Sharon said...

What a lovely story. I love your great memories. I felt as though I was right there with you in the barn. I am so glad that you helped Betty deliver her calf. What a neat experience for you. It's too bad you had that scary experience in the silo and now have a fear of heights. I didn't use to have a fear of heights, but now that I am older I do.

Thanks for sharing!

hugs, Sharon

Kathy said...

Thank you for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment. I thought I would hop over and take a look at your blog as well.

What a wonderful story about the old red barn. I use to go spend time on my Aunt and Uncles farm when I was growing up and I have some wonderful memories of their barn. Thank you for sharing and bring back some pleasant memories for me.

Sarah said...

Hello sorry it took me so long to get back to you. Thank you for your comments. I deleted the fairy blog!! I recreated it on another site though. It is easier for people to join now. Well take care.

-Sarah

Peggy said...

beautiful memories!

Sarah C. said...

Hi Mary! You're invited to "My Favorite Things Monday" inspired by the Sound of Music! You sharing a picture and story of your current 'favorite thing' that cheered you up when life got you down, would be a blessing! I hope you can come! www.sarahlcc.blogspot.com

Thank you for sharing the memories.

Pia said...

thanks for the visit, mary. it's always nice to look back down memory lane. God bless you always, mary. =D

Michelle said...

Hey Mary,

Thanks for visiting my blog! What fond memories you have of your childhood. I always wished I could have grown up on a farm since I love animals so much. Of course I couldn't befriend the pigs or the chickens if they were going to be supper later! :)

Happy Halloween!

Michelle

Steven said...

very nice story! and this is a brilliant blog, I will read you in the future -I wish you a nice weekend and i hope so that everything will be okay - sends greetings to you - Steven May

Mara (the coffee lover) said...

awesome post!

Mary / Mariah said...

Thanks I love having the old post cards my grandparens got before I was born .
The name Lucky Cooper fits our new kitten . I think I'll be calling it Coop .
What a delight reading about your memories of your Grandpa farm . I lived on a farm until I was 7 and we moved to town . I really missed th old water bucket and long handled dipper we drank out of . We had an out house pumped our water out side . Had an old wood stove in the kitchen . So many mamories of our big dog Shep .
Thanks for reminding me .
Mary