By Lawrence “Mack in Texas” Hall (Rated G)
A large truck stopped in front of my country estate here along Beer Can Road and County Dump Extension. The big red tractor was pulling a big long trailer carrying lots of wood and prefabricated roof trusses. I visited with the driver, who was trying to find an address that apparently did not exist. The bill bore little more than the first name of the seller, the items on the truck, and the Neverland address.
With my mental acuity that would impress even Detective Monk, I suggested that we switch around the physical address and the county road number and plug those into the electrical map on the MePhone, and that did indeed give us an address that exists, a farm only a few fields over. I gave the driver directions and we shook hands, though I don’t know how his adventure ended.
But the cargo was interesting: roof trusses, probably for a barn, and a miscellany of milled wood.
Barns are good. In our times of destruction and violence, the idea of raising a barn is a vote for civilization.
The barn is the heart of a farm, the world headquarters of the business, and the art and liturgy of growing crops and animals. The day’s work begins there, almost always before dawn, and ends there, almost always after dark. The good old tractor spends its nights there, along with plows, rakes, mowers, tillers, barbed wire, rope, pulleys, machine tools, gardening tools, carpentry tools, sacks of feed, mineral blocks, hay, feed, animal medicines, a work bench, fertilizer, and lots more impedimenta, all of it expensive, necessary for raising animals, prepping the fields, establishing plantings and pastures, sowing, maintaining, and harvesting.
Depending on the animals and seasons, the barn also hosts critters large and small, with the various pens and stalls necessary for their shelter and safety.
Other life forms, not at all welcome, reside there too: rats, mice, snakes, and maybe a skunk burrowing under the foundations for the winter. Raccoons, ‘possums, and coyotes regard the barn as a midnight diner. Thus, the farmer will establish a resident dog, probably named Hank, and a cat, probably titled Simba, King Cat and Killer of Rats. With fresh water and just enough good animal food, they will strike at the unwelcome intruders with fang and claw, and in return expect only an occasional scratch behind the ears. A barn owl might find a cozy spot among the rafters and from there he too will wing silently to prey upon rats and mice and the occasional careless bunny.
If the farm is blessed with children, they will work their 4H and FFA projects from the barn: gardens, rabbits, chickens, goats, pigs, and other crops and critters in any combination.
The adults and the kids will post calendars with lots of penciled-in information about crops and seasons, and the business cards of veterinarians, farm supply houses, and tractor dealers will grow around it. A feed store thermometer and a barometer on the wall will do their duty for years to come, along with a rain gauge on a fence post, although there are only four categories of farm weather: (1) too darned hot, (2) too darned cold, (3) too darned wet, and (4) too darned dry.
Just inside the big door, or perhaps outside if there is some shade, a bench and some old chairs will be positioned for those rare occasions when folks will be able to rest from their labors a while with a meditative chaw or cigar to sit and think and talk, and sometimes just to sit and think, and sometimes, as the old saying goes, just to sit. The setting sun and the sweet scent of a new-mown field are the light and the incense for that evening hour of Vespers.
Anyway, that’s where I think that truckload of wood and the friendly driver from Louisiana were going. I hope so. We need more foresters and truck drivers and farmers, and fewer strident men of destiny who wear expensive suits and uniforms while giving their underlings orders to destroy the land and kill foresters and truck drivers and farmers for the greater glory of whatever.