Ideas come to mind in strange ways. We saw a cartoon showing a young fella swinging on a rope in a barn hayloft or haymow pretending he was Tarzan swinging on a vine.
What does a barn bring to mind? A big red building in a farm picture, a place where animals are kept, a storage place for hay or perhaps a secret hide-a-way when you were a kid.
We each were reminded of the old two-story barns on our grandparents' farms. They needed paint, had cracks that let light into the hayloft, had spider webs in the corners, were dusty and smelled like old hay. The hay was itchy, but we didn't care, the barn hayloft was a special place.
When we'd sneak up to the hayloft, it was so much fun and mysterious. The sun shone through the cracks making neat patterns on the wall and across the floor. The dust could be seen in the sunbeams. It was quiet and peaceful.
Jim's most fond memory was pulling up a hay bale to sit on, finding a knothole and peeking out at the world, watching what happened outside, watching what event went by his line of vision. Maybe a dog or a chicken went past, or his mom was shaking the rugs. He could spot the neighbor across the road. It was like looking through a telescope.
Other memories include finding baby kittens tucked away by their mother, barn swallows building nests of mud on the rafters and hearing pigeons cooing as they raised their squabs.
Jim's grandpa told the kids there was a bullsnake in the hayloft and they were not to bother it because the snake kept the rats and mice out of the hay. They saw the snake many times and steered clear of it.
In the spring, the chickens many times hunted for places to lay eggs. We would find nests under the mangers, so we checked each day for freshly layed eggs. Once in a while, a hen would find a good hiding place and we'd miss it or find it later with a dozen or more eggs and a hen sitting on the eggs, keeping them warm to hatch.
The hayloft (sometimes called the haymow) was the place hay was stored after it was cut in the summer. Before balers, the hay was forked onto a hay wagon in the field, was lifted up with large hay hooks into the loft and piled on the floor. During the winter, the hay was tossed down to the horses and milk cows into the mangers below through special openings on the side of the hayloft floor.
The haymow was empty in the spring, and before summer haying time, many farmers swept the floor clean, set up seats made of planks on sawhorses, covered the hay feeding openings for safety, and called in friends, relatives and neighbors, and local fiddle players. It was a barn dance loved by all.
There wasn't electricity, so lanterns were hung from the rafters for light. We remember getting up early to do chores and milk cows by hand, and we needed to light the lanterns because it was dark in the barn.
What happened out behind the barn?
Well, as kids grew up, they might have tried smoking a hand-rolled cigarette or tasted some homemade beer or moonshine whiskey. We've heard these "shenanigans" many times led to a visit to a woodshed and paddling.
We wish we had paid more attention to the stories told by Uncle Herman and Grandad Flinn.
Now-a-days the barns are neat, new and well lit. The dark corners, spiderwebs and rope swings are gone, but our memories will live on.
Jim and Opal Flinn, Ellis, are members of the Generations Advisory Group.