My granddad’s barn was built on the order of so many other barns in southwest Pennsylvania. It was built on a sloping hillside where one side of the barn’s foundation was partly underground while the other was open to the air. The side underground had a slightly graduated ramp that allowed access to the second story barn floor.
The part of the barn not underground allowed doors to be built to give the farm animals ingress to their stalls and mangers. The initial access was a large area that ran the length of the barn. It gave the animals a shelter from the cold and wet weather. They would wait there until the doors to their stalls were opened.
The second floor consisted of a wide main floor that gave Grandpa a place to store the tractor. On each side of the main floor, were areas almost as large. These were areas where the hay was stored: loose tossed hay and later when balers were available areas to stack the bales of hay. The hay storage had the roof of the barn two stories overhead, while the central floor had a floor above it for storage.
To one edge was a small square room for the keeping of corn and feed. It was solidly built of wood and covered in a wire mesh to prevent rodents and birds from gaining access to the grains that was feed for his animals. The barn’s skeleton was made of huge beams fastened by wooden pegs in tennon and socket joints.
Granddad always had two milk cows. He preferred Guernsey’s, saying that their milk was richer and filled with cream. He raised a bull for butchering in the fall, usually a short-horned Herford. He had several pigs, raised for their meat.
At one time when I was small, he had two horses; one was a black stallion, named Blackie (of course), that allowed no one near but my granddad and one stupid kid. I was told I was that stupid kid. I toddled out of the house and walked to where my granddad had the horse tied. I was standing under its belly, trying to pet it. My mom and grandma went to get my granddad, they were afraid I’d get trampled if they approached. My granddad rescued me. I was young enough not to remember, only what my mom told me.
The other horse was an older female, and she was the work horse named Pet. Granddad would sometimes hoist several kids onto her back and walk the horse around to give us rides. Pet was gentle and would follow my granddad around like a dog.
My uncle Charles and Dale decided to work on Charles’ car in the barn. The beams made a great place to use pulleys and ropes to deal with the motor. It was an older Buick; wide and heavy. Charles backed it inside. The main section of the barn floor groaned under the weight. In one loud crash, the floor collapsed, remaining intact and the Buick was partly in the bottom of the barn. The back end was down and the front end was up. When the floor fell, it made a ramp and they were able to pull the car out of the hole. Later they were able to lift the barn floor back into place and secure it, stronger than before.
The outside of the barn as long as I can remember was a weathered gray, while the inside colors ranged from a honey color to a bleached bone hue. The beauty of them was enhanced by rays of sunshine slipping through the spaces between the boards of the barn’s siding.
Little can beat the smell of fresh mow hay stored in a barn. The smells of the animals below and a sometimes sharp tang to the smells of the hay and the feeds are almost perfume to a person who grows up on a farm or has worked on a farm.