Fremont County, Iowa

by Daisy Malcom

View from the Attic ~ A Weekly Series
Fremont County Historical Society
Week of October 30, 2013

Barns were a part of the growing-up experience, I had, on our farm north of Thurman in the 1950’s and 60’s. We had three of them used for various activities. The hay barn was the farthest from our house, used exclusively for storage of rectangular hay bales. It had a tin roof with a long overhang sloping down over wooden walls which weren’t completely enclosed. Snakes dwelled there which kept me away from it most of the time.

The rock barn sat in the north pasture and was built into the hillside on the east side. A large open window on the second floor was used when an elevator carried hay upward from a wagon below. There was a wide center area downstairs with a storage room on the west and a feeding/milking area on the east. Bins were located there so the cows could eat as they were milked. Kickers, like handcuffs, locked around a cranky bossy’s back legs so she couldn’t hit the milker on his short, three-legged stool as he pulled and prodded her milk bag to give up the precious liquid.

That barn wasn’t just a place of work, however. In the hay loft, on the second floor, there was a basketball hoop, and we had fun there, always mindful of the open square in the floor where stored hay could be dropped down to feed the livestock. Outside, my daredevil brother David would practice his “jump, tuck and roll” maneuvers by jumping off the roof onto the abutting hill.

The third barn was all wood and painted white, built at the side of Bluff Road. There was a lower level on the south, the home for our pigs, with an exit to their outside enclosure and mud bath. At the west end of the barn, was another lower level with a slanted chute. I remember watching cattle being prodded in single file up that chute into a truck which would carry the doomed animals to a sale for eventual slaughter.

One of my most vivid memories of that main floor is seeing a slaughtered hog hanging by its back legs, left there to drain its blood before being butchered. To the north, of this center area, were storage rooms. I remember Mom going in to get some corn and coming back out quickly, because of too many mice. Her solution was to get our best mouser, named Fats Domino by my brother. Fats would dutifully go into the room, shake and kill the pests, and dump the bodies like a conqueror at Mom’s feet as she stood outside the barn.

When I was driving age, I’d park my ’57 Chevy in there. I thought I was really lucky those days even though I had to walk down 13 stone steps from the house to the road and another 50 yards to the barn’s main door. These days I find myself complaining occasionally at having to walk 10 yards from my front door to my garage.

Today I find it sad that there are few barns being built, and so many old ones being torn down, or in disrepair because barn activities were a big part of farm life for me.

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Page updated on November 1, 2020 by Karyn Techau