Keeping it Virtual

January 16, 2009 at 6:10 AM | Posted in Salt of the Earth | Leave a comment
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A little less than a year ago, I got an email telling me that my grandfather’s barn is “a burning pile of rubble.”  I know that progress is important, and I realize that to keep the farm my grandfather loved and worked going, some changes will need to be made.  I know that working environments are neither museums nor amusement parks and that when something wears out, it needs to be replaced so that work can continue.  I know that visiting my grandparents for a few weeks in the summer doesn’t give me any authority to judge the way things operate.  But I really hate the image of that barn as burning trash.

The barn didn’t just seem like something out of another time–it really was.  It was built over a hundred years ago, which didn’t make it anything special for Iowa where everything seems to be well-settled and deep-rooted, but to me it was like a sea tortoise–old, rare, and worthy of protection.  Instead of being bleached grey by wind and water, the barn remained red (of course) despite the fact that no one ever seemed to paint it.  It had changeable rules too, as any building being governed by wild cats is likely to have.  Sometimes it was full of hay, and sometimes it wasn’t.  Sometimes there would be a mound of corn that shifted underfoot and filled shoes, and sometimes there wouldn’t be.  Sometimes it housed cattle, sometimes pigs, recently horses, and sometimes the only living things that I could see were mice and swallows.  Always there were massive boards that had survived lightning strikes and rope swings and a huge loft that seemed to have its own dark expanse of sky wide enough for the swallows to do speed drills.

I’ll refrain from romanticizing further since the decision is a work-related one, and my grandfather was a big fan of hard work.  I have just one last comment:

My grandfather’s barn did not end in rubble.  I’m keeping it here.

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