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.


  1. this is beautiful. I am so impressed by the talent that you have to express what is in your heart and to touch mine as well. Thank you Janel, I love you.

  2. Very special that you could make the 3 lives come together like you do. Very special. Thank you.
    Love you!!
    Your uncle Barry