Buildings tilt and sag and empty from the inside out.
We lived seven miles south of town at the end of the west road. The turn left across the auto gate brought you on to our ranchland and the mile and a half drive up to the house. After driving through the stackyard and the iron pile by the old mulberry tree you drove by the barn across another auto gate into the yard. The barn was big, red and solid and anchored the ranch. It was a useful and well-used barn. There were 15 stanchions on the North, pens in the back, stalls and places for tack and grain. There were 3-foot wide stairs that led to the hayloft that held old furniture, machinery and a beauty of a buggy. The interior had room for cattle and tractors.
There were tall and wide white doors at the front that slid in their tracks with a halting motion. The barn had corrals to the South and West with loading pens and a chute you could back a truck up to. The cattle run was made out of wood with sloping sides that you hoped a big steer or an angry cow wouldnít crawl over though many tried. This was a barn with feral cats, fat spiders, swallows and sunlight full of magical barn dust and thick with memories.
I was in that barn most days of my growing up. The 100 yards between house and barn were familiar to me and my dog Charlie. It was there I helped pull a calf for the first time. I shot and killed a bird with my BB gun and it fell from its perch with a thud. It was there I picked up baby birds that peeked too far out of their nest and freefell to the barn floor and hadnít been discovered by the yellow-eyed cats. I placed their feather-tufted bodies in secret places knowing it was only a matter of time before they were discovered. I learned about actions and consequences whether they are from my own foolishness or that of the baby birds.
I gained the confidence that comes with independence and responsibility. I gathered the grain and fed the huge black bulls and their offspring the orphaned red twins with the nursing bucket. I didnít quiver at the sound of the mice and didnít kill the fat quarter-sized spiders but brushed them away.
The barn was 50 by 100 feet with a peak of 30 feet. It was built to last and had done so for 80 years. But when we left the ranch that had been our home for 17 years the new owners didnít move anyone in. They only cared about the land not the buildings. They tore it down, ripped it into huge pieces and sold it for scrap lumber leaving a pile of rotting wood and hundreds of nails.
How can something that took up so much space be reduced to rubble? I know that answer intellectually and can see the evidence here and in the times we live in. But emotionally I cannot grasp it.
I keep closing my eyes to the reality and looking up into the rafters of my vision. And there the barn swallows swoop, the cat hunts mice, the dog stays nearby, the sun shines from up high and you can hear the spiders spinning their webs.