Friday, June 18, 2010

Pictures of the barn

Rhonda took these...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Barn

I didn’t know my father’s father, he passed away long before I came into this world. I’ve heard a few stories about him and I’ve seen one picture a couple times. I’ve read my grandmother’s journal and she mentions him often. The entries are from after the time of his passing and I can feel her heartache as I read her words. She loved him. He was tall, skinny, and had dark hair. My grandpa was a cowboy. I wish that I could describe him more, but I haven’t had the pleasure of getting to know him, yet. I was lucky enough to get to know my mother’s father, my Grandpa Rogers, who passed away recently. It’s peculiar that I didn’t know my grandfathers together, but they have a way of reminding me of each other.

My grandpa Dunn owned a ranch, the land that I was raised on. There are a few buildings on it: a granary, silos, a pump house, a corral, a house for sheep and a big barn. The barn is a great structure that can be seen even from the highway. When I was very young we would be found in the upper level of the barn playing basketball with our cousins. It was a fun place to go explore. There were bird eggs in the corners where foul made their nests. And it seemed as if there was always an owl that lived in roof of the barn. If only the walls of that barn could talk, imagine the stories it would tell. I can imagine my grandpa working in the barn, chasing cows and teaching his sons to work. And cuss. I have memories of all the buildings around the ranch, but the barn holds a distinctive place in my memories.

The barn is getting close to the end of its life and I realized that when I get the news of it finally falling down, it would feel as though a family member had died… much like it did when my grandpa Rogers passed away. My dad wouldn’t be persuaded to knock the barn down. And my mom wouldn’t be persuaded to let my grandpa Rogers feel as though he was unloved or forgotten. She went above and beyond for my grandpa, but that’s another blog for another day. By the time I came to know the barn it was in retirement. It was no longer used for milking cows nor did it serve as a shelter for pigs, sheep or horses. These past few years I could have only described the barn as decrepit. By the time I came to know my grandfather he was in retirement, but not nearly useless. He never was useless. Some of the shingles have blown off the roof of the barn, kind of like an old man loosing those few hairs on the top of his head. The doors of the barn creak and moan in the breeze, kind of like the knees of a grandfather after bending down to pick up his grandbabies. It leans from the force of the wind and there are supports on the insides of the walls that remind me of hip replacements. The foundation took a lot of beating. From floods when pump got left on, to getting chipped from bullets while trying to sight in a gun, it had seen better days. The foundation reminded me of my grandpa’s hands. His fingers were crooked from arthritis and he was missing half of his pinky finger from an accident. The barn has its original windows in it. They gleam in the sunshine even after 90 years of neglect. Looking at them reminds me of my grandpa’s eyes that lit up every time one of his grandchildren walked in the room.

My grandpa Rogers lived until he was 96 years old. The last years of his life were spent in nursing homes. As I would approach the building to go in for a visit, I would think that it was strange that the Lord would keep him on this earth. What could he possibly have to do here? And as I walked into his room my mind was immediately changed. He was usually asleep but I would wake him and say ‘hi grandpa’ and his eyes would light up just as if I was the same 5 year old girl asking if I could spend the night at his house. He would laugh and say “hello sweet kid.” I later found myself calling my own baby a ‘sweet kid.’ He constantly taught me patience and perseverance as I watched him, a 96 year old man in the year 2010, figure out how to use his new cell phone so that he could talk to his kids. I didn’t know my grandmother, his wife, but he talked about her kindly. Always about how elegant she was, the great mother she was and the plain and simple wonderful person she was. He loved her. Even as a frail old man he taught me lessons I can’t forget.

Like I said, I didn’t know my grandpa Dunn. But when I think about him I can’t help but smile. Through stories and journals I know that he had a rough exterior but he was loved and I think that’s significant. The barn reminded me of his life and my heritage. I have wondered why I loved that barn so much and I have finally realized it’s because it reminds me of my grandfathers.

As I was in the middle of this blog, the barn did fall down. It fell a month after my grandpa Rogers passed away, and 90 years after it was erected.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The simple life?

I often wondered why they called it ‘the simple life.’ The work is hard, the days are long, and the meals are made from scratch. Maybe it should be called… the honest life. Sunday’s were saved for church and family. Mothers loved their children and their tears were wiped away with an apron. Men were more concerned with earning an honest living for their families than trying to get ahead any way they could. Of course no one was perfect but there was always a desire to do the right thing, even if it was the difficult way. We weren’t ignorant to the world around us, maybe just a little more uncomplicated. If sophistication meant expensive toys, infidelity, parties and addiction, well we didn’t want any part of that anyway.

Families gathered for dinner while siblings kicked each other under the table. McDonald’s was a special treat you only got on birthdays, not just when mom is too tired to cook. Dad worked outside all day but tried hard to not miss sitting down with his family. The kiddos usually stayed at home with mom and spent the day making cookies, climbing trees, swinging and growing more freckles. The older kids were on the tractor or hanging out at the gas station getting a mountain dew with dad. Occasionally mom and dad would take time for each other on Friday nights and go to the show. That meant we got $20 to go to the video store and get a pizza and a movie. If there was extra money we got some M&Ms.

School was trouble-free. Tardiness was excused if it was calving season. Teachers were more lenient if you fell asleep in class because you were irrigating all night. People didn’t think twice about the gun seen on the seat of the pick-up in the parking lot. We all knew it was probably just used on coyotes. We didn’t have three hours of homework each night, but we didn’t waste time on video games or television either. There was always work to get done or more interesting games outside. We didn’t need a government figure setting up a diet and exercise plan for us. The only time we got fattening treats were those occasional weekends our parents went out. We prayed before games and meals. We said the pledge of allegiance every morning and usually accidently ended it “in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

Fashion seemed to be stuck in time, or at least two years behind the bright lights, big city. I always liked that. Appropriate wedding attire was pearl snaps and your nice belt buckle. We got hand me downs and that was just fine. By the time we got them, our duds were only 7 years out of date and that’s not too shabby for a 4th grader!

My cousins were my best friends. It truly never occurred to me that everyone in the world didn’t have a cousin living down the road or in the next town. There were aunts and uncles to stop on the side of the road and pick you up when your car broke down. There was always someone to wave to when driving in town. Reunions were redundant because we saw each other at church every Sunday. Grandma baked cake and cookies and breads and all sorts of good things. Grandpa was my best friend and always had a trick up his sleeve.

We learned at an early age to do work. Kids always smelled a little bit like body odor, grease and dirt after cuddling with dad and reading a book at the end of the day. He taught us to work. And cuss. We learned to earn our toys and treats. There’s nothing like a long day of physical work to appreciate a paycheck, or a hot dinner and a soft bed. Our trampoline was sewn where the holes had formed and the joints were welded together in many places. When I was 5 my dad used to let me steer his purple ’71 Ford flat bed pick-up while he fed the cows. I stood on the seat and peeked over the dashboard. It was the same truck we piled in to go to the video store. The pick up that hauled a sick calf to shelter, pulled tractors out of the mud, and towed kids in an inner tube up and down a snowy field.

Mom taught us to love and forgive. Actually, she taught us everything. She taught her daughters to be mothers, and her sons to be gentlemen. She was compassionate when the world was not. She taught us to cook and do laundry. Mom was always the one to call the family for prayers before bed or to watch a movie together. She’s the one who really tied the whole family together.

The simple life, huh? Simple is a lot like honest, pure, true, wholesome, chaste, faithful, right and good. If that’s the way you want to describe my life. Well, thanks!