The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

March 4, 2013

Home to the Hills: Old barns have many stories to tell

By Ricky Pack


How many of you, while riding in a car, pass an old barn, and wonder what secrets does that barn hold? There aren’t many barns that I pass that I don’t wonder what secrets it holds, or what stories it could tell if it could talk.

Pop had a barn sitting up the hill. I have heard many times that the barn was once attached to the house that stood at the bottom of the path. No one in the family can deny or confirm that the barn was attached. I would imagine that would bring a whole new meaning to fast food.

I could hear Pop as he was leaving for work, “Alma, I feel like a ham tonight, maybe throw in some of that fried chicken.” Grandma would answer, “That’s a good idea. I’ll get some milk for the kids tonight and make some of those deviled eggs you like so much,” all without leaving the house.

As I was growing up, that barn was scary and an adventure too. It was built out of hand-hewn 30-inch poplar trees. The timbers were stacked like the old log cabins except there was no chinking between them. Chinking is a material placed between the logs to seal them up. It had a tin roof that roared whenever it rained. It sounded like a dragon to me.

I can remember Pop and every adult warning us that there are snakes up in the barn. I was scared of snakes. To me there were two kinds of snakes back then: Poison snakes and poison snakes. I always watched where I was stepping and gave a thorough search all around, just in case they were hanging from the cross timbers.

There were two rooms in the barn. The first was where Pop kept the hay and oats. The second room was where the horse and the manger were. For those of you that have never been in an old fashioned barn, the manger Baby Jesus was born in was similar to the manger that Pop fed the horses in. I would imagine that the rats and mice would find it warm and comfy in the hay.

Therefore the snakes would know where to get a nice plate of rat steaks with a side order of mouse soup. Kind of makes you think about just what kind of environment our Savior was born in.

One evening after supper Pop asked me if I wanted to go help him feed Nellie. Nellie was another one of those monster horses that Pop used to plow with, except she was nice. When we got up to the barn, Nellie was waiting to be served. Nellie’s room was lower than where the hay was stored, that way Pop could pitch the hay directly into the manger.

I asked Pop if Nellie liked eating hay. Pop said, “Ask her, she’ll tell you.” So while Pop was pitching hay, and Nellie was eating, I asked Nellie if she liked eating hay. Sure as I am sitting here typing, she shook her head yes, not once but several times. You won’t ever be able to convince me that animals don’t understand man.

A barn can be a romantic place to take a sweet country girl to and there are plenty of sweet girls back here. The only problem is my Grandmother had a yellow birdie that would tell on us anytime we even thought the wrong way. Of course after we turned 42 we didn’t hear much from the yellow bird.

One day I got brave and decided to climb to the top of the wall on the barn. I had my own pocket knife and etched my first love’s initials into the beam: M.G.W. and R.L.P forever. MGW never even knew I did that.

The barn fell down, mostly because of rotting, but was finished off by a 24-inch diameter red oak this year. The last time I was there I got out taking a look and there on the top beam that was now on the ground were our initials I carved 40 years ago.

(Pack may be contacted at Letters to the editor regarding his column may be e-mailed to