The historical barns still standing today testify
to a different way of life, the life of our forebears.
Barns were the key to successful farming. Each has
a story to tell.
The Baylor Barn was built in the early
1890's. My father once told me that as a child he
went to school in the morning and when he came home,
there was the barn. Not really, but the bents were
standing, raised during the day. They'd been laid
out on the ground, the tenons fitted, the oak pegs
driven to secure. It was, in modern terms, a prefab,
shipped in by rail to Mc Paul and hauled on wagons
drawn by the horses it would stable to our place south
Mortised and pegged, nails only to hold
the siding and roof, the feeding floor would accommodate
twenty horses, the granary and mow sufficient for
their feed. Hay was grass, lifted to the mow by a
fork dropped from the rail along the peak. In mid
summer, haying was the dirtiest, hottest, most miserably
job on the farm---as my father told me, he being the
low man on the totem pole worked in the mow. (He decided
to become a lawyer.)
Several features of the barn particularly
intrigue me. On both sides of each joist in the "driveway"
there are nails exposed, about six inches apart. Huh?
Walter Wright, who lived here with his family in the
1930's and 40's, described to me that "different
way of life", no combines then. Before harvest
he'd hitch a horse to a skid, pull down each row of
corn, feel every ear as he sought the big ones on
the theory that the seed from a big ear would produce
another. Early hybridization! These he'd bring back
to the barn, pull back the husks, tie two together
and hang the ears from those nails---out of the way
of the rats and mice that otherwise would devastate
the next year's seed by eating the germ.
Up in the mow are about a dozen poles,
apparently three or four inch tree branches in varying
lengths, eight, ten and some twelve feet long, each
topped by a steel cap with a sharply pointed finger
extended. Huh? Yes, these are some of the raising
poles used over a hundred years ago. A barn-raising
was more than some neighbors lending a hand; it took
a crew of trained, strong men working under an experienced
foreman to do the job.
The Iowa Barn Foundation is dedicated
to saving those Iowa barns in Iowa that still stand
as they tell without words the story behind what we
enjoy today. The Foundation will sponsor a tour of
barns in our area, Saturday, June 12th, and Sunday
the 13th---and a picnic here at the Baylor Barn on
Sunday. Food will be catered by James' Country Grocery,
attendance only by reservation---have to know how
many to prepare food for! For more details, see the
release in this edition.