Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Barn

This barn has been a part of my life since they brought me home from the hospital as an infant in the 1960's, and it's been in our family since the 1950's.

Ever since I can remember, this barn has been in my life. My parents originally lived in a trailer on the other side which faces the water. (Say what you want about living in a trailer, go ahead, you know you want to, but I’m here to tell ya this trailer was on some incredible real estate. To this day if you were to ask me what my dream house would be, it’d be a waterfront trailer. With a maid. And a landscaper. And a chef. Is that asking too much?)

My father’s parents lived in the farmhouse that went along with this barn, and eventually my parents ended up building a house right next door. The point being (don’t worry if you don’t know what the point is) I have strong ties to the barn.

Given the isolation of Mathews, as children we had to invent our own fun, and many times we ended up playing here. It was and still is a wonderland inside, filled with all kinds of junk and plenty of stuff for a kid to get into. For example, if you read the story about me painting the shutters pink, it happened right here on the other side of the silo. Some other noteworthy nuggets:

-One time when we were bored, which could have been any minute of any day of any year as a child growing up, my neighbors and I decided to turn the barn into a haunted house. We worked for weeks creating a spooky landscape complete with a grave yard, a place where you could feel eyeballs (Isn’t that what everyone wants to do? Sit around and pass eyeballs from person to person? They were peeled grapes, by the way, and I thought we were quite clever.), and other ridiculous activities in the hopes of scaring our poor visitors to death. We were nothing, if not compassionate, merciful hosts. After all that work, I don’t remember more than one group going through it.

And as a most unusual side note, about a year ago in a local thrift store, I saw the sign my mother painted for this very haunted house. I remember someone stole it (and I was very upset, because it was a great sign, my mother is very artistic) but who’d have thought it would end up years later in a thrift store? I didn’t buy it, by the way. I cannot explain why, but I’m sure a therapist would say it has something to do with being reminded of a failure….I, on the other hand, would simply say that I have enough junk as it is, and absolutely no need for a sign about a haunted house.

-There was every sort of Anything Old a child could ever hope to play with in there. Tons of tools, old records, old skeletons and animal specimens. That’s what’s in every barn, isn’t it? Animal specimens and skeletons? My uncle was a marine biologist and left some of his stuff there…talk about a haunted house. Try being a kid snooping around in a dark barn and finding a jar of SQUID looking you straight in the eyes. There were many record-breaking sprints and screams that originated in that barn.

-This was the headquarters for my grandfather’s daffodil business. After the flowers were picked we hauled them here to soak in buckets of water before packing them off in huge cardboard boxes to be shipped to parts unknown. I hated this part of the operation and usually made myself scarce when it was time to do the packing. I've always been helpful like that.

-This was and still is a cat factory. Put one cat in, and four hundred pop out. It’s amazing. And these cats NEVER LEAVE.

But perhaps my favorite story from this barn is one I can’t even remember because I was so young, about 3 or 4 years old. My grandfather, a very staunch, serious “rules are rules” type of person, was in charge of me. I wanted to go in the barn, and he obliged.

A set of stairs more closely resembling a ladder goes up to the second-level loft. I decided that’s where I wanted to go. My grandfather must not have been paying close attention, because that ladder is steep. I evidently lost my footing, slipped and said, “Oh by dammit.” Not the other G.D.-it (with apologies for the cussing). Nope, it was, “Oh BY dammit.”

And there, with nobody but her staunch, serious grandfather as a witness, little Chesapeake Bay Child made her first attempt at profanity. (There were many more to follow, but never again on the home front. Well, at least not until I could outrun the adults.)

Needless to say, my grandfather was not pleased, but I guess by the time he finished telling my parents and half the county about the offense, most everyone was laughing too hard to care.

Ah, the barn. Playground, cat factory, haunted house and profanity practice field for up and coming children.

Yes, this barn holds a whole lot of memories. And a whole lot of cats.


cats said...

I love the picture of your barn. Do you have any of those ancient tractors? I love those. MY Great-Grandfather used to have them. I remember the barns at his house when I was a child. We used to play in them also. They are probably fallen down now. I hope your barn lives forever for posterity. My mother told me how they used to have a million cats on the farm. They lived in the barn also.

cats said...

I forgot to add that you just reminded me of a funny thing. When my nephew was about 2 years-old, he was playing with some blocks, and they fell down, after he had made a tower. He said "Gog New." We realized this was his feeble attempt to say GD. His mother used to say that. My husband and I gasped and then we laughed for about 5 minutes. My nephew is 18 years-old now. I need to tell him this story.

foolery said...

I gasped when I saw that silo. Beautiful barn.

Do your parents have a view of the water, too? Or just the barn?

If the cats would just STAY in the barn there'd be no problem, right? But I'm sure your cats are like our cats, who insist upon yowling at the back door to be fed for 17 out of 24 hours a day.

LOVED this post. Surprised to see you back, since I thought you were gone all weekend.


Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

cats - There were several ancient tractors in here - an old Ford and an old International Harvester (both of which I could start and drive, thank you very much). I believe those have all gone to Tractor Heaven.

There are a few lawn mowers residing here, though. They NEED to be hauled away to tractor heaven, but my father insists on keeping them around "just in case." (As in "just in case I want your mother to end up on an out of control lawn mower with the only way of escaping a sure death is to jump off." You know, that kind of just in case.)

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

foolery - yes, we all have a view of the water, we are extremely fortunate.

And YES. Those cats howl morning, noon and night for something to eat. In the winter, they will hurl themselves up against the door in order to be heard.

And there is no such thing as a baby Anything around here. They're all eaten alive at the first sign of weakness.

Got back today. Spent the weekend in Yorktown. If I can get the pictures to load, I'll have a few stories for this week. (But don't count on luck with pictures is waning.)

MommyTime said...

This is a fabulous photograph. The silo is particularly gorgeous.

And I love the stories, too. The bit about the cats is hilarious.

kaffy said...

Love that picture! How did you get those perfect clouds and blue sky? You must have a special setting on your camera to insert such elements! I confess that one of my thoughts about the silo was that it was beautiful but also awfully fallic looking. Shame on me. ;-)

Sam Hendricks, author Fantasy Football Guidebook said...

I have an orange tabbi (mainecoon) cat sitting beside me as I write this and she asks me the same question all the time. Why did you take me from beautiful Nelson county to dreary ole England? (there is a thought that relates to your blog here...just wait for it)

But the point is "It does not matter where you're at, it's who you are with" (Big smile)

I sense that from your posts but just wanted to restate the obvious.

Samantha my cat agrees. or at least she is giving me big head nods, winks and purrs but now that i think about it that may be because I just fed her.

Keep up the pictures! But it does seem as if Mathews always has Great Weather (kaffy kind of alluded to this as well)....perhaps on the one rainy day a year there you could take one of a thunderstorm or rain shower......:)

Finally, can I comment on the symbolism of the shape of your barn? Good to see that the gals have devious minds too.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

mommytime - thanks. I could write about the cats for an eternity, there are so many of them.

kaffy - I am so clueless about the use of my camera (or anyone's camera) that if there is a special setting I don't know it. This was done on the Auto setting and is untampered with (since tampering would assume I know how to do anything other than point and shoot). There has been so little humidity here this past week that everything is clear and crisp. I call that sky the Simpsons sky - it looks like it came straight from the cartoon. (I'd never considered that about the silo, but you just might be on to something.)

Sam - I'm glad you're a cat person, that confirms what I already know about you. And you're right about what matters most. Also, the next nor'easter we get I'll be sure to take a picture. All you'll see is horizontal rain and the tide up to the windowsills. We get plenty of 'em and we're long over due.

Thank you all!

Mental P Mama said...

What a fabulous post. Love the shot of the barn and all its stories.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Thanks, mental p!

soupisnotafingerfood said...

Oh yeah. We had a "barn bank" and an old silo that my dad tore down when I was a kid. I never "knew" the barn. Something about old barns and old silos, though...

The parallels between our lives scare me. Except that I grew up in landlocked Central PA.But, other than that...

ed said...


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