The Barn

Old Barn photo_stock image

It was an old barn. Decrepit and tilting and hollowed out inside, it stood on the side of the highway, passed over by hundreds of commuters daily as they rushed to and fro, north and south, about their busy ways. They hardly noticed him sitting there, still and cold and not alive.

But the barn waited.

That’s what he did best, after all.

It was nothing new; he’d waited before. Before he was erected—way back sometime before 1910, because that was the year the first and only newspaper blew by and he was able to determine the year—he waited as a pile of fresh cut lumber stacked up beside the old and tiny wood-shingled house; a farmer’s house; a poor man’s home; a mostly-warm and sometimes too-hot place where amenities were scarce but love was in excess. The barn didn’t know what it was before the pile of wood. He hoped he had been a number of great big cedar and pine trees that had been cleared out of what was now Pa’s northernmost pasture. The barn—once he stood tall and was able to see around him—pondered over the many stumps dotting that pasture, the stumps that Pa and his buddies and, later, his son, would slowly tug from the ground with a team of horses and then a big motorized horse-thing called a tractor that puffed out smoke and made all amount of noise but did the work of ten horses. As he watched the horses and then the tractor drag the stumps away with taught chain toward the burn pile, he wondered if those rotting hunks of wood that had been given up to the termites in the field were the remains of what he once was.

But that life was gone now. It was strange, he thought, that he didn’t miss it, that he didn’t care to know it, that he didn’t wonder what it might have been like to be a tree and to see way up high for miles and miles around.

Simply, the barn liked being a barn.

His first memories were of the tender sizzlings of Ma’s bacon in the fry pan and the boiling of fresh coffee on the fat-bellied cast iron stove. He remembered how the smells would effervesce from the kitchen. He remembered the bacon especially: how the scent would bleed out the open kitchen window with a life still vibrant; how it would try to drift up but fall back to the earth, weighted down by an aromatic load; how the oily cloud would caress him and seep, ever so slightly, into his knots and throughout his grain as it drifted by on the morning breeze to places unknown out in the world, places the barn never wished he could follow because he was happy being where he was.

He’d enjoyed those days. They were simple, plain, and it was tough at first, the waiting, because he was so eager to find out what he would become, what Pa would craft him into. He watched for so many long days as Pa worked the rest of the farm and made it into a thing of crafted beauty—not a naturally beautiful thing, like meadows of flowers or toms’ plumage when they strut about, proud and boastful, but a man-made prettiness and serenity that was in tuned with itself in a quiet, lulling pleasure. The barn watched a wire fence go up, a dog house be built and a dog put inside it; he watched a new tile roof get hammered onto the house and then thought—hoped—for a while that he might become an extension onto the house, or a second story, or a little workshop where all these crafted things began. For a fleeting time, as he watched Pa save the old wooden shingles away into a big crate, the barn hoped he would become a little covered bridge hovering over the stream nearby, because it always seemed so unfortunate that Pa and Ma had to bob down, disappearing behind the near shore, and then pop up as they crossed the road there. But, then, when the barn saw how the trickling stream turned into a raging river after a big springtime storm, the barn didn’t want to be a bridge anymore.

So he waited some more.

He laid there for many months nestled up against the northern wall of the little house. He watched the grass grow and the leaves change and the rabbit kittens bound through the brush and grow from teacup-sized little brown, bouncy bundles into things big enough for massive bald eagles to carry away in their great yellow talons, the wind whistling through their wing feathers as they carried the extra weight up, up, up to some dining place unknown.

The barn had watched the bunnies get carried away a few times. It was a sad and unfortunate necessity of life, and always occurred on the most peaceful of quiet, sunny mornings. It was because of those times that the barn wished, always, for overcast afternoons or loud, rainy days.

Then there appeared little Bill. He arrived just before the barn was pulled from his stack against the house and carried across the yard to the fresh, flat, empty spot Pa had carved out from the earth.

The barn remembered a strange man coming to the house late in the night, amid a raging rain storm full of guile and mirth, and how Ma was inside the house screaming and moaning and panting and how Pa had been pacing the floor heavily in his mud-crusted boots all night long, not even bothering to take off his hat. It was a stressful night; nobody slept. And, by the time the mysterious man departed, more quietly and slowly than he had come and with something of a happy little grin, there was a strange noise coming from inside the house: a wailing, crying, gasping sort of noise that was sad and beautiful and frightened and triumphant all at the same time.

The barn wondered what thing could make such a sound. And, soon enough, he knew: it was little Bill, who would become his greatest friend.

The barn was built up over the course of a sunny spring’s week with the help of a dozen or more of Pa’s neighbors and friends. The day after all the work was done the men were accompanied by their women—and Little Bill and other little ones like him of varying sizes—and a feast was had out on the lawn in front of the barn’s big doors. Pa roasted a pig and Ma made a pie or two; the other people brought all manner of filled bowls and overflowing platters with foodstuffs that the barn couldn’t begin to identify. None of them smelled like bacon.

It was a grand day; even the sun was out in full array, warm and bright and jubilant, with no clouds in sight. But the barn couldn’t enjoy it. He kept worrying about the rabbits and hoped at least a cloud or two would appear. They didn’t, and nothing terrible happened all day, except when one of the less-little ones was climbing up one of the barn’s new beams and got a fat splinter in his palm. There was some pouting, a few tears, but it was eased by a pair of Pa’s big tweezers, some brooding mothers, and a plate full of pie.

So the barn stood barren and naked for just a day or so until the painting began.

The painting came just as quickly and was taken over by a rush of young, strapping, not-yet-teenaged boys who weren’t allowed yet to hammer and nail and saw but who could be trusted with slapping on red paint and white trim. After the task was completed, the boys—messy in paint splatter and doused in big, congratulatory smiles for one another for a job well done—needed feeding. That was when Ma emerged from the house with a basket of sandwiches on one arm and little Bill in the other, wrapped tight in cloth and nestled snuggly and sleeping in the indent of his mother’s curvaceous waist. The barn saw that she was tired looking, tired but happy, and he was happy for her.

The barn shone majestically in his new paint and tarred roof. It wasn’t but a few weeks later, when summer was coming to a close, that he was filled up with various types of long-cut, aromatic grass—what he would later learn was bedding straw and alfalfa hay—and loaded up with three horses who went by the names Bubba, Charlie, and Mouse. The first two were gargantuan creatures, their shoulders plumb and level with the top of Pa’s working hat, but were ever so aware of their size and stature that they hardly suffered a misstep into even a hay pile nested with a litter of newborn little mice. Bubba was a fine gelding: dark and mottled grey with a full-crested neck and sparkling black eyes who’s only vice was chewing nightly upon the wooden beam framing the door to his stall. (That particular beam had to be replaced thrice during Bubba’s residency, but the horse’s affection for it—and moreover, the barn—was soon enough understood and appreciated.)

Charlie, on the other hand, was something of a red clay-colored slob. Whereas Bubba would delicately nibble up any stray bits of hay and feed that happened to float down toward the ground, Charlie was forever distracted and dribbled and drooled and foamed his way from one distraction to the next, swinging his huge head far and wide during meals to gain any kind of view of any kind of activity happening within the far reaches of space. The bright white star on his forehead, too, served as a kind of beacon to any and every living or non-living thing around. Charlie was landed on by finches, fluttered upon by butterflies, crashed upon by falling pine cones, and whipped upon by branches swinging back from the wide girth of the lead-gelding’s rump which Charlie obediently followed as the two trekked through the narrow paths of the thick woods surrounding the meadow on their Sunday around the perimeter of Pa’s hundred or so acres.

The last resident, Mouse, was just like her name: she was white and tiny—oh, so tiny!—and served specifically as Ma’s companion and distraction from all things homemaker-y. The miniature pony clippety-clopped back and forth between her favorite napping spot in the barns’ farthest, darkest corner of soft, high-stacked hay to the doorstep of Ma’s front porch, pawing with a hoof at the door and begging for another carrot or two or scrap of sacrificial apple skins, the leftovers from the makings of the latest pie wafting out from the open windows.

Around about the time the weather started to warm Pa brought into one of the empty stalls a small pile of lumber, then proceeded to build a tiny little house right next to the barn. He surrounded it in wired fence on three sides—the fourth side being the barns wall—then filled it with gigantic, fat sparrows that couldn’t fly. The chunky birds squawked and chortled and clucked all day long, from sun up till sundown, and ate every bug and every scrap of food Pa or Ma threw into their enclosure.

The barn was fascinated with these birds because they didn’t seem to mind that they couldn’t fly and didn’t seem to care what the rest of the world thought of them. They didn’t have nervous ticks, like Bubba had when he felt trapped and ate his stall doorway down to splinters, and, like Charlie, they didn’t seem to care much that they were kicked around or stepped upon by Pa’s quick shuffling feet as he trampled through to steal away their white globes of hard labor from the nests in the early light of day.

Then one morning, late in the summer, a bigger bird was added. The barn discovered it was called ‘turkey’. It was speckled black and had a mean temper and couldn’t have cared less about its roommates. The bird made a bad habit of wanting to be free from his confines; though he had food and water and shelter and company enough to satisfy any fowl, turkey insisted on digging himself out of captivity. He scratched at the base of the barn’s wall, scuffing off the semi-new paint in flakes of blood red that scattered upon the damp ground as it tried making its way to freedom and the vast unknown. Pa had a shovel handy, though, and refilled the hole several times, cussing at turkey about how he’d soon get even. The barn felt no warmth toward the creature, either, and wished Pa would hurry up with his revenge before the barn’s entire wall was scraped through.

He didn’t have to wait too long.

Turkey was taken away one morning in the late tide of autumn. Pa had approached the coop with a sly leer across his face and mumbling, “Thanksgiving, indeed,” as he grabbed the bird and took it off somewhere—the barn thought to the house’s basement—and it never returned. The barn often wondered, but was more relieved than curious. The other fat sparrows didn’t seem to care at all that the bigger bird was gone, either. In fact, they seemed relieved, too, because now there was more cracked corn and insects to go around.

The first winter was hard. Being only lumber before, the barn didn’t know how wind and rain and sleet and snow piled on and made things heavy and damp and cold for weeks and weeks on end; or how icicles—the failed remnants of warmth trying to return—pulled down with their weight on the eaves; or how the snow tracked inside and melted but didn’t evaporate and made the ground muddy and wet and miserable.

The barn learned to despise winter. But there were good days, too. Beautiful days, though few of them. Like the morning Pa and Ma called “Christmas”, when the sun was out and the snow was sparkling and the whole world seemed to smell of gingerbread and buttered potatoes and pumpkin pie. That day many people came over—people the barn had never seen before—but they were gay and anxious and little Bill was just old enough to be passed between all the hands and arms and kisses and hugs they had to give out all night long, up until it was time to go to bed and the lights were blown out and the people’s cheers and laughter turned to mumbles and then to the intermittent snoring of Pa and an older man who sounded and looked almost just like him.

The next years came and went and arrived and faded in similar fashion: the barn always still and watching in either awe or disappointment as the shadows of the sun crested across the lawn day after day after day. Little Bill soon wasn’t so little anymore, and ventured into the barn to take naps and help his father with chores and, even once, falling from a high beam after trying to peek into a sparrow’s nest and breaking an arm.

They spent many hours together, the barn and Little Bill, and it wasn’t long before the young boy turned to a young man who acquired a deft eye for anything out of place inside (or outside) the old horse house. With Little Bill around, Pa no longer had to worry about maintaining the barn; his son was more than willing to take on any and all chores related to the well-being and well-keeping of his favorite childhood hideaway. Little Bill would whistle and sing songs about pretty girls and Heaven and whiskey adventures as he laid daubed on coats of red paint with significantly more care than the original painters; he would hum and sing odd, made-up tunes—often stopping mid-line and standing up stock straight and still to correct or adjust a verse or two—as he forked hay and mucked stalls and re-nailed old boards back into place.

Once, when the barn was becoming rather aged and Little Bill was almost the height of Pa, a girl came into the picture. She was pretty, plain, quiet, and her hair shone and sparkled like the bales of straw hay Pa or Little Bill hauled into the shelter of the barn’s loft on hot summer days. She started coming around about the time the new spring grass was peeping through the new year’s soil, when the little rabbit-kits scampered across the lawn, trying to hide beneath the insufficient shadow of a tall dandelion weed. Little Bill and his girl, named Hannah, would lay on their stomachs up in the hay loft looking out the high window and out over the grass lawn, pointing and giggling and counting the little creatures as they ran and stopped and nibbled and ran some more. The barn liked this girl. She was refreshing and different; she had more energy than Ma but the same kind of light, the same kind of wonderment about the world and the same kind of fascination with hard work and well-earned keep. Hannah shared the barn’s delight in the sweetness of the young rabbits, in their naïveté. But, in time, as it always happened, the kits grew slowly into cottontails and the barn felt the girl’s disappointment and greyness when she, too, realized that the little bunnies were growing up and becoming less sweet, less innocent, and ever more aware of their inescapable predicament at the bottom of the food chain.

During those months things were happy and good. Ma was well; Pa was well; Little Bill and his Hannah were well. The crops were good, the giant sparrows were productive, and the horses didn’t turn lame even once during the long working days of the summer; even the dog—the one spotted hound with huge ears and a perusing nose, who howled at everything and ran after nothing—was on his best behavior.

But, like those most peaceful of quiet mornings that the barn had learned to so terribly dread, tragedy struck again when Heaven was at its nearest: though older, the mysterious man from many years ago arrived again, once more approaching the house late in the night with the collar of his long black coat pulled up against the chill of a wet northern wind, and stayed for many hours until daybreak.

This time, though, there was no screaming, no moaning, no panting. There was, however, some pacing, though not nearly as much as the barn had remembered from the night that Little Bill had arrived. This was different. This was darker.

The morning arrived with a dreadful quiet riding on the beams of the late-September sun. It seemed no birds were bold enough to chirp, no hawks were daring enough to hunt. Even the several fowl whose home was tucked up against the barn’s easterly wall, the birds who were always so cheerily and noisily greeting the new day, even they roosted quietly in their coop without so much as a cackle long into the high summit of the afternoon.

The barn waited. And waited. Then waited some more. Finally, Hannah emerged, following the mysterious man like a shadow out onto the creaky porch of the old rambler home. Hannah’s long yellow hair hung limply against her cheeks and her mouth curved drearily downward; her face lacked its usual luster and her eyes were overcast with a mulled and foggy sort of gray. She floated in the wake of the mysterious man as he moved toward his car parked out in the dirt driveway made soggy by the last night’s drizzle. There were some words mumbled—the barn could not hear them—but the mysterious man shook his head, patted Hannah on the shoulder a time or two, then drew off his black hat as he was swallowed up by the vehicle’s driver’s side door. Young Hannah stood on the gravel for a long time after the car disappeared. She stared at the ground mostly, but then looked back and forth between the barn’s high hay loft and the little ramshackle house behind her that now seemed cold and foreboding. The barn yearned for her, wished for her—if a barn could pray, he would have been praying for her to come to him, to nestle in the soft hay loft for just a moment—but she ended up turning around and disappearing back into the desiccant hollows of the tiny house across the way.

Little Bill and Hannah were married the following spring. The young couple decided to have the ceremony performed inside the barn, where the sweet smell of hay mixed in with the perfume of the innumerable bouquets of roses Hannah and her friends had put out and around and inside the barn for the occasion. The barn couldn’t have been prouder to be the venue for the festival. Two days prior Little Bill’s friends had gathered inside the barn for a night of drinking and haranguing and boyish-good fun; the following morning the young men awoke—begrudgingly and with moans and painful groans as they emerged, barely awake, from various piles of hay and straw—with the important task of cleaning out the barn stretched out ahead of them.

The young men scooped and shoveled and pitched forks all day, ridding manure and excrement in wheelbarrows and push-brooming out heaps and heaps of needless gravel and debris. Soon enough the floor, though still dirt, was as clean as it had been the day the barn had first been built. They broke for lunch and, afterward, proceeded to unload a flatbed truck with countless pews strapped down securely onto its bed. The furnishings had been donated by Hanover Baptist Church, a fact the barn was privy to only because the pews were first carved and then burned on the backside with fine wood pen the organization’s name and seal.

When the men had completed their task of arranging the seats and Little Bill had completed the effort by placing a simple wooden podium at the front, a swath of women—older, looking to be aunts and neighbors and mothers of friends—entered, their skirts swaying behind their diversely shaped hips and their arms full of decorations galore and even more flowers to set out in addition to those already aromatizing the room. The entire entourage was quite gay; watching them pleased the barn greatly. The women laughed and giggled and only once did a minor spat occur over precisely what type of wide-ribbon bow should they tie on the pew ends: a double or winged? It ended up being neither. Maid of Honor Sherry Lee swiftly intervened before the discussion turned to a debacle and instructed the ladies, “No bows. Just tie a small bunch of Baby’s Breath with a single red rose and let it dangle. That’s what Hannah said to do.” So the debate was over.

The celebration was something to behold. There were more people than could fit inside the barn’s hollowed out interior and the number of bodies made the scene rather warm, in both spirit and in temperature. The barn had never seen a white dress quite like Hannah’s and, with her hair mostly tied up and some pieces of it dangling down around her face, he thought she looked mightily regal, like the barn owls that often roosted in his eaves, if only a little more golden and glowing. Little Bill was quite the vision, too. The barn had never seen him out of long pants or overalls—even when he and his father piled into the car to go to church, both men wore their finest jeans and button-up shirts—and the dark long coat and black wool pants and the vibrant blood red rose pinned to his lapel was charming in a red-winged blackbird kind of way.

When the ceremony had ended, the pews were moved aside to uncover the dance floor. A couple of cousins and uncles stood off in a corner making noise with myriad stringed instruments and one thumping a couple of barrels with sticks. The barn thought it was a racket, but a pleasing one, and all the people seemed to think so, too.

Thus it went on into the night: the dancing, some singing, feasting, drinking, more dancing, and then the guests began to depart slowly, one by one and then two by two, until there were only a few remaining making small talk, holding glasses half empty of spirits, determined to press on against the odds of the coming sun, not wanting the night to end. But, eventually, even they left, and it was only Pa, Little Billy, and Hannah remaining. Pa made a gesture and excused himself long enough to pull the car around to the front of the barn. He pulled a bottle of concoction from the passenger’s seat, handed it to his son, hugged both he and his new daughter, then stood and watched as the young couple got in the car and drove away. The barn and Pa watched as the taillights bounced and shrunk and then turned the corner down the road and disappeared.

It was sad, this departing, and evermore bitter after such a vigorous celebration as they’d just had. The quiet seemed quieter, though it was, in fact, less quiet than most nights were, because of an indignant lot of chickens nearby who had been kept from their beauty sleep and who were determined to make the world pay. And, as Pa began blowing out the hanging lanterns, one by one, the dark night seemed darker, though an hour before the full moon had announced her arrival to the party in all manner of silver streamers and ballroom lighting.

Pa extinguished all but one lantern. He whistled the horses in from the field and walked them into the barn for the night. Bubba and Charlie went quietly into their beds, eager to get to the hay awaiting them; little Mouse, though, refused to go in. Pa fought her a little at first, tugging at the halter and trying to coerce her with the remnants of an apple core in his pocket. She wouldn’t budge and, with a rush of fervor, broke loose from his grip and ran out. Pa bolted after her and turned right out of the barn, assuming the pony was headed back for the field. But, no—Mouse was at the front porch, pawing at the door, whinnying softly, wanting in.

The barn watched Pa’s rage evaporate and his shoulder’s slouch. The man breathed a heavy sigh, meandered toward the house, let the pony in, and closed the door behind him.

After the wedding there wasn’t much excitement to be had. Little Bill and Hannah visited from time to time. Another winter came and went and Pa got some help the following spring from Little Bill and Little Bill’s friends in reroofing the barn. The following Christmas Hannah’s belly was looking rather bloated. In April, around Easter, Little Bill and Hannah had a little one of their own—Theodore—who looked the spitting image of Little Bill when he was just that age.

And so things went on like that. The horses got old. Charlie broke his leg while running from some wild dogs and had to be put down; Pa didn’t get another horse to replace him, but got a couple of milking goats to keep Bubba company. Bubba retired after Charlie died. He had been willing enough to work by the side of his friend but, after the clumsy equine’s departure, the joy of physical labor was gone. It was all for the best, anyway. Bubba’s muzzle had long since greyed and his ears didn’t find sounds like they used to; his feet weren’t as steady; his back, having lost the strength, began to droop and sway and give in under the pull of his huge weight. The goats were wise companions; they cleaned the places on Bubba he couldn’t reach and which they could, and he groomed the furry tops of their heads and backs while they chewed their cud with eyes half closed in unadulterated contentment. With the goats came more small critters: a hutch of rabbits, ducks to add to the fowl, and a lean tabby barn cat Pa called Missy.

Pa, old now, too, was better suited to handling the small animals than the big draft horses of his youth. Pa didn’t mow any seed into the fields after Charlie left and Bubba retired, and ended up renting out the land to a neighboring farmer eager for more crops. And, with time, what once had been the county dirt road on the other side of the house was paved, then widened, then paved and widened again until finally a big stone barricade was set in the center and the little road was transformed, not suddenly but over decades, though it seemed suddenly to the barn, into a highway. First the traffic was mostly tractors and farm machines trying to get to and from various fields; then the semi-trucks discovered it; then cars started driving that road in countless shapes and sizes. On mornings and evenings, especially, the road was busy. The barn figured people were rushing to go somewhere in the early light of day. But it confused him that, only a few hours later, they were always equally eager to get back to where they’d been.

On a glorious summer afternoon in the heart of July, when the air was thick with gnats and butterflies and the faint crispness of an oncoming rainstorm, Little Bill, Hannah, and Baby Theodore—who was now about three years old—arrived. Pa didn’t come out to meet them. Within a few hours the mysterious man’s car appeared, but it was not the mysterious man in his dark coat and black hat who emerged from it. It was a different, younger man, wearing a white button shirt and simple wool cap and red suspenders but carrying the same, old leather case the barn had seen times before. When the young man knocked on the front door, Hannah opened it from the other side looking rather pale and worn. The young doctor disappeared into the house with Hannah closing off the world behind him.

Then things got very quiet.

The sun set and the moon rose and then they switched places again before there was any sound from the rambler home, but it was only Baby Theodore making a fuss over one thing or another. After that it got quiet again until a big black car came tumbling down the dry dirt driveway, a cloud of pale dust kicked up behind it. The car inched to a halt next to the young doctor’s car and a fat man popped out. He was somber looking; his jowls hung and his bottom lip puffed out from underneath the top one ever so slightly. He waddled a little as he made his way toward the door. It was the young doctor who opened it.

The barn made out muffled conversation, then some shuffling, some Hannah crying, some Baby Theodore wailing in response because he was too little yet to understand and the whole thing was impossibly frustrating.

But the barn understood.

It was a long process, the funeral and the arrangements and getting the animals situated and taken care of while Little Bill decided what he wanted to do. Eventually, though, the animals were loaded into a big truck and taken away; another truck came days later and emptied the old house of furniture and belongings. Finally, a nice looking man in a grey suit came with Little Bill and they took a long look at the house—on the outside, the inside, the front and back; they inspected the barn similarly and, to end their visit, took a long walk out into what remained of the pasture. When the nice looking man left, Little Bill lingered in the barn. He knocked with roughened knuckles on vertical beams, testing their strength, or his; he kicked some lifted spots of the dirt floor with the scuffed toe of his boot; he climbed up the old, creaky ladder to peek out the loft window just one more time. Then, as he sat in his car, the engine idling and arm resting out the rolled down window, Little Bill tilted his weathered cap at the barn, gave him a crooked smile, shifted the transmission into gear, and slowly rolled away, away, off toward the black river road which quickly swept him away in the current.

If barns could cry, that one would have.

The barn was alone for a long time before a new family came. They had three children and a big dog. The barn felt hopeful—he was eager for a fresh start, a new life, a new family to watch over and at—but the ma and pa in that family argued a lot. The pa in particular didn’t seem to know much about plowing or corn or grain or about farming in general. They never adopted any more animals or got chickens to feed or goats to milk. The pa liked to drink; it wasn’t long before he ran an old tractor into the woods at the back of the property. He never retrieved it and the wild overgrowth soon took possession of it, swallowing the machine like a ravenous snake swallows a mouse.

The ma never baked apple pies and often came out onto the front porch with a white and smoking stick poking from her mouth. She’d suck on that stick until it had shrunk down to nothing but a stub, then she’d snuff out the embers on the porch railing and toss the stub into the shrubbery to join the others dying there. The little white remnants piled next to and on top of one another, like a tiny battlefield of fallen and abandoned soldiers; it was a toxic gravesite where even weeds feared to grow.

The children were misbehaved. They broke windows on the house and kicked in some of the barn’s old boards, which the pa had no interest in replacing. The dog was worse and seemed to just want to urinate on everything in existence. It had made a favorite toilet of one of the barn’s darkest corners.

The barn wasn’t sad when that family left.

No families came after that. The fields were bought out by neighboring farmers who knew a thing or two about how to work the land. The barn watched as the tractors, year after year, got bigger and bigger and louder and louder. Though nobody paid much attention to him—except for a few promiscuous teenagers, one lustful young couple, and a family of explorative raccoons whose descendants made a permanent residency of Bubba’s old stall—it was still nice to see corn rising high and proud in neat little rows off in the distance like Pa and the horses used to grow.

The barn had long ago lost his red luster and white paint. His colors were dulled, greyed, sun-beaten and worn. His shingles warped, some blew off in storms, and still others simply decayed and fell to the ground where they laid, silently, in tired surrender. A few of his beams took the same sort of tendency toward self-destruction; they snapped, some completely through, others only halfway with only mild interest in the game, and left the rest of the barn’s roof to sag and fend for itself.

Eventually the house caved in. Mother Nature had finally decided to begin taking back the lumber used to build it. The barn oversaw as the ivy and moss reclaimed the house and watched as the cars flew past on their boomerang trip to somewhere quickly and then back again. He wondered when his time would come.

But he was good at waiting.

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