Written by Kate Morrison
It’s 3:21 A.M. and I am scavenging through my cupboards, scouring through boxes of childhood treasures. Journals from third grade where I’d written about orphaned raccoons we were raising, and my Holstein heifer Betty. A stuffed cow my Grandpa Harold gave me that I can’t seem to part with. Black and white photos of my Grandma Joan Hallock as a child with a filly on her family’s farm. Some costume jewelry that belonged to Ethel Stokoe which was given to me by Pam and Larry Stokoe after she passed away. I used to spend hours with Nan, reading to her and helping Pam and Larry take care of her towards the end of her life. I remember holding her hand the day before she died, and when she let go of my hand and pulled it back I knew she was telling me to let go too. I pause and run my finger over each item and reflect on the memories it holds for me before I put it back in its place and keeping searching. I’m looking for something specific and finally I find it in an old wooden box with a poppy carved into it… an engraved pocket watch that no longer works. The pocket watch belonged to Esther Hatton, my great-great grandmother. I breathe a sigh of relief as I wrap my hands around it and give it a good squeeze, comforted by the fact that it’s safe and sound in my possession. Nights like this, when I wake up and can’t fall back asleep; it’s usually because there’s something pressing on my mind. Tonight it’s a barn. My ancestors’ barn to be specific, one that is doomed as far as I know. Tonight before going to bed I saw Robert Melville had posted a few pictures of the barn to a Facebook group I belong to called Historic Barns of J.T. Wells and Sons. Along with the pictures he wrote that “The staging of the trackhoe and dozer is an ominous sign.” The barn is set to be demolished in March to make room for a hospice home from what I understand. I began reading the comments and began to get choked up. Someone commented they’d be interested in one of the lazy W’s that’s unique to a Wells barn, someone else saying they’d like just a few boards. I know the members of this group would much rather see this historical, and what most would consider obsolete, structure to be preserved. But somehow all I can picture is one of those time lapse videos of a dead whale at the bottom of the ocean being stripped in a matter of minutes by creatures until all that’s left is the skeleton of what once was. I’ve passed by that barn thousands of times since I was born I’m sure. Always saddened by how empty and lonely it seemed. No life in it anymore, no animals or hay or people moving in and out or around it. I try to imagine what its past life was like with the help of stories my Dad and Grandma Joan told me. I’ve become much better at accepting change since I was a little girl, and yet somehow a wave of emotions swells in my chest at the thought of the barn being destroyed. I’m certain that the image in my mind of that barn and my family’s connection to farming has had something to do with my desire to farm my entire life. Now, at 31, I’m finally making that dream come to fruition and I don’t want to see what was part of my inspiration disappear. Maybe it’s really striking a chord with me now because even though I knew deep down that this day would come, I never wanted to accept it. Maybe I don’t want to accept that just because one person has no use for something so beautiful that it should be destroyed. On any other day I’d write about the history of the barn, my ancestors that used it in their efforts to make a living, and write about just how iconic and spectacular I think it is. But I won’t tonight. Tonight I’ll just write about how saddened I am, and defeated I feel, helpless to stop change. Tonight I’ll grasp the pocket watch that belonged to a woman who got to see the barn in all of its glory and full of life. I try to imagine what it was like to step into that magnificent barn and smell the hay in the mow, and gaze up at the cathedral-like ceiling, and imagine shutting the doors on it at the end of a long day like I do on my barn now. And I’ll try to go back to sleep.