February 25, 2024

By Arthur H.Gunther III


     In another time, in another Rockland County, N.Y., when the rural season was year-round save for perhaps eight weeks as summer vacationers tarried, barns stood proud as do tall majestic oaks and redwoods and pines. They proclaimed hard work, land cleared for grazing, farming, dairy. 

     Barns were durable, post and beam with three, four, five or more bents or sections. They eventually leaned with age, as we all do, but it was rare that any toppled. The buildings were mostly red in the 19th century-on because red oxide found in clay soil was easily mixed with skimmed milk and lime. Allowing the color to age showed thriftiness but also the same respect you would give the lines on Grandma’s face.

    Barns usually rose with neighbors’ help, one of the better traditions in a land of manifest destiny. Some have endured for centuries. In time, “progress” plowed fields under in my county, and housing developments found their way in, pushing barns to dust or leaving the occasional one until an expensive designer repurposed barn siding in a home large enough for a king.

      The true crown though was worn on the metal roofs of barns, one of the farmer’s best friends, his first morning sight. The utilitarian structure housed him milking cows at 4 a.m. His wife and family would join in full enterprise as the chores and sustenance of daily life continued.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.