At one time, the main floor of our barn sheltered mama cows and various other farm animals. But I only remember it as a place to store stuff. I never understood how things mysteriously ended up in the barn. Spare doors and windows. A rusty old bicycle. A bucket without a handle. Odd machinery parts. Years of ordinary junk became useful treasures as we worked them into our play.
We never knew what we might discover. One tiger-striped cat always preferred to deliver her kittens in some secluded area of the haymow. Busy hens left an egg or two nestled among the hay. Occasionally we caught sight of a frightened field mouse as it scurried away.
In the center of the main floor, a sturdy wooden ladder led up to the haymow. Steve climbed up first. In a flash, he scrambled to the top and stood to his feet. He folded his arms and stared down at me.
“Well, come on,” he hollered from above.
I carefully positioned my feet on the lowest board. Inch-by-inch I pulled myself up. At the top I paused, trying to work up the courage to let go of the ladder and move to the floor. I stretched my hand toward Steve. He rolled his eyes. Then he pulled me up and plopped me down on the wooden floor.
The scent of hay filled the air and dusty rays of light filtered through the cracks in the walls. Barn swallows darted in and out of the big open window.
Brittle hay crunched under my feet as I marched toward a wide wooden beam. I clambered to the top. “Look at me!” I shouted, demonstrating my daring balancing act. I stretched out my arms, staggering my way across the massive beam.
Steve shrugged, clearly unimpressed. He rested on a bale, his hair a mess with bits of hay.
“Check out my fort,” he said, sticking a long piece of hay between his teeth. I hesitated, remembering the last time I crawled into one of Steve’s custom-built tunnels. Halfway through Steve covered the opening, leaving me in total darkness. He took such pleasure in scaring me.
But the fun wasn't just limited to inside the barn. Steve and I spent hours in the dusty crawlspace under the barn’s main floor. We'd gather metal Tonka trucks, small garden tools and various kitchen utensils to assist us in our work. Bright yellow dump trucks hauled rocks. Bulldozers constructed roads. Mom's garden hose filled miniature lakes from a nearby water hydrant, Our time under the barn always began with one of Steve’s bright ideas – and ended with the knees of our jeans caked with dirt.
Even today, that old barn still stands. It no longer holds tunnels and forts, but it does hold my childhood memories. Sometimes I wonder if there’s a rusty old dump truck under that barn. Or likely an ice cream scoop from Mom’s silverware drawer.
That’s what I like about barns. They're versatile. That, to me, is the beauty of a barn.