Delbert T. Tysdal
"OH, how I wish," he said, that day just past, a few years ago, when all went well. This story he had to tell:
'We had finished the barn, again. It never quit it seemed. It needed paint and boards. It creaked and groaned, swelled and moaned. Its windows, doors were tight, most broken some ready for the saw. Its nails and screws were pulled by nature's weight, exposed and in need of a hammer's blow. It took a summer, all summer it seemed, but not just quite. The cows seemed not care, nor the cats and dogs. As long as it was dry and warm, they slept and kept their vigil after we had left them milked and fed.
'The boards we painted red, then nailed and screwed in tight. They were warped from rain and needed more than that. They held the shafts, tongue and groove, together, end to end. The window frames we covered white, some panes were left as found, cracked a bit, not broken, to be fixed after the grain was sold. We knew the barn was happy, and now that it was being fixed, it smelled just right.
'The doors were older than the barn. We found them in the back yard pile, made them fit, from lumber twice as old. The hinges squeaked and told the story older men had heard. This barn was tough they said, so tough it could not fall. And we had heard tell, the wind had opened those doors all by itself and let their whispers out. '
His thoughts, now so slowly worded, he stood a bit. He shifted his two legs, stretched his arms, he yawned. His eyes, quite blue, his hair so gray, his heart far younger than his frame could push. (He was somewhat really cute; he had bits of supper on his shirt.) For more I knew was yet to come. This grand old man had yet more to say, he said:
'We put the cupola on the peak. We wondered if the wind would get the best of it again. Its chicken twirled and whirled, telling the wind it would not win. The rods and bearings that held it strong, needed oil to make it spin. Its metal frame twisted with its boast, 'DeLaval, DeLaval.' We cleaned it up really nice. Then the pigeons built their nest and did what they do best.
'The separator with its crank now stood alone. Its cans had held gallons of milky white. Its foam the calves had loved, licking every bit from the nipple we held for them, white to the tip. The cats had washed their faces many times, with squirts we shot to them. We laughed and giggled when they pawed, our aim was good, their faces sweet with milk.
'We had 12 cows, he said, a dozen once, some more before. Their stanchions were right here, in a row, one on one; beside the others all cows stood. They came at six most days; at night I had to get them, find them, chase them home with sticks. White and black or black and white depending on your view, they mooed in colors not so clear. Each had names, but now forgotten, in the dairy diary of his mind.
'And don't forget the hens and chickens, roosters, boars, ewes and gilts. Some where short, some tall, others needed stilts. The geese often honked their way to corn, then hissed at us to go away. But at last he said, "We ate them all. Gosh, they tasted good!"
'And those little piggy wiggies... there was no such thing. We called them that because it sounded good. They scampered here and there under mother's watchful eye. They suckled at her side until they fell asleep. And then so sly we were, that we picked them up one by one for play. We put them in the craddle of our left arm and rubbed their tummies warm until they seemed to snore a bit. But mom now quite concerned stood
up, she grunted, 'put them back' right now!' Her nostrils rich with foam and those hairs did bristle until we did. Then all was well and she slept again, all ten right by her side.
'The two horses by the back door stood, we walked quite far away, we thought we should. Their tails down to the floor they swished and swashed. They cared not if we walked on by. They wanted us to gather up the reins and take them for a ride. We did. On moonlit nights we scampered to the sleigh with blankets soft and soon so warm.
We watched us, ourselves, move right along in the silouettes on the snow. They we were all of four
of us right by dad and mom.
'The truck out at the mail box, just a mile away, had stood patiently, waiting
all the night. Our road was long and covered with the white of snow so deep. We didn't have a plow. The cows were milked, the cream cans filled, on the sleigh were lifted. The black and white now snorted, puffing half-frozen breezes in the air. The harness fell on welcome backs, the halters inserted mouth to mouth. Eager twins, quite different, one was black and one was white, now just waited for the 'snitch, snitch' from dad's own mouth. They bolted. He held them back and I hung on as life or death. 'Twas but fun, to see them run, prancing, their tails aloft. Their eager hooves did grasp the snow and spat it in our face.
'And off to town, the truck had started. The horses tied to the mail box for just an hour. It was not cold for them. They knew the ropes, they were tight and held them firm until we got back, dad's wallet filled. He smiled, I did--I had a Baby Ruth candy bar.
'The barn and its peak in view told us it was not far. Over the hill, no woods were here. On by the slough now frozen with its rink. The old elm tree did let us know that we were home and it greeted us. It bent its boughs with snow and ice in welcome cheer. Down the short hill, by the house, the horses quickly slowed. The sleigh we parked outside the barn, the horses through with their morning run, stomped the ground and snorted. We put them back in each their stall until tomorrow when they knew we would ask of them, "take us out and then back home". '
The old man stopped, his mouth ajar, with words so ready to be told. For just a minute, one tear did begin its flow. He held it back and waited for the spark. It came so fast I almost dropped. He swallowed once, then started:
'The silo to the East was block and stave. They wound it round with bands, then turned them tight. On top, the crown, so shiny, bright refined the evening sun. Its ladder waiting to be climbed. It was my turn to try, it told me, and I was scared. Up the rungs, one by one, really slow, at first, then faster as I got more courage. I dared not look down, it was far to far to fall. From the top I looked out, around. Dad and Mom were by the house, toothpick tall from way up there. They saw that I was growing up, they smiled in awe.
'The morning suns so welcome from the East. Through the trees across the field we saw the deer just risking getting the last dew drops off the new mown hay. The rows and rows of windrows lay so flat. The barn doors were wide open, and we were there with wagons, filled with hay. Up the long rope, then click to enter those huge doors. The cable crackled on its way, the clutch then snapped, the hay dumped in its place. The barn seemed to stagger just a bit with each and every load. It held its place, so proud, to help us store the crop.'
And suddenly, he cried the tear that held his eye. The barn he knew was not no more. It was fixed just right, he was so proud. It was the same, but just so very different. He had walked its aisles, milked its cows, groomed its horses, climbed the silo tall, forked the hay down from its mow. His back was sore, his arms were worn from weight of years of work. To bad he said "I would do it all again." The barn did not speak but it heard him say, as I: 'This barn, my barn is yours, please take care of it.'
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Delbert D
Tysdal, is 59, and lives along Route One Glyndon, Minnesota. The story is about
an old barn his family had on their farm north of Fergus Falls Minnesota USA. The barn and its farm was sold in 1958 to the present owner.