2017-04-19 / Community View


Barns are more than just beams and boards

The other day while headed to an assignment down near Dryden I noticed another barn missing. The recent windstorm had peeled a good chunk of it away and the owners had pulled the rest down.

I’ve seen a lot of that lately. I get it. Dairy farming has all but disappeared in Lapeer County and it’s hard to justify putting a lot of cash into something that’s lost its essential usefulness.

Still, it’s sad to see a few shingles disappear, a hole open in the roof, a ridge line sag and eventually a once proud structure implodes in on itself. It’s kind of like waking up one morning and realizing a favorite uncle or aunt has gotten really old and a little forgetful.

Barns have always been a part of my life. My first jobs were stacking hay and straw in them and mucking out stalls. The feel of old barn wood brings back memories of my teen years.

A few years ago, Wendy Lange, a GM engineer from Dryden Township self-published two books of photos of barns in Almont and Dryden townships. She preserved the images of nearly 300 barns in the two communities.

Sooner or later a good number of those barns will just be crumbling rock walls in a field someplace.

Modern barns just don’t have the same feel. A series of telephone poles driven in the ground and wrapped in two-by-sixes and sheet metal lacks the sense of history an old barn has.

I know they can’t all be saved, but it makes me smile when someone figures out a way to breathe new life into an old barn.

There are farms out there where the barns were old when the 20th century was new. As long as the roof holds, a postand beam barn will last almost forever.

But people stop farming, or at least raising animals, and shingles, especially in the amounts needed for a barn roof, are expensive. It’s hard to justify the cost of maintaining a building that big, if all you’re storing is a couple of bicycles and some lawn equipment.

Still every time I see a hole open up in an old barn roof, I feel a little twinge. It’s like hearing an old neighbor has fallen and broken their hip. You hope they’ll get better, but you know there’s a chance they won’t.

Barns are more than just beams and boards. They’re stories. They’re stories of neighbors coming together to build something more than just a structure. They’re stories of families and hard work.

When one goes, the landscape is always a little less than it was before.

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