Saturday, May 19, 2012


"The old barn" was what my brother and I called our favorite play ground.  This was on a farm we lived on for four years when I was between eight and eleven years old.   There were two more large barns and numerous other outbuildings, but this was the one we preferred.  It was a post and beam structure enclosing a single large room.  I can't even guess at the actual size, but to our young eyes it was vast.  The main beams were about eight or ten inches square and stretched unobstructed from one side of the barn to the other, probably twenty feet above the dirt floor.  In midsummer, the barn would be stacked literally to the rafters with bales of hay.  When the hay was high, those beams seemed as wide as a sidewalk.  John and I would run back and forth on them as easily as we would run across our yard.  Then a funny thing would happen.  As the hay was taken away to feed the cattle, the distance you could fall became greater and greater and the beams became narrower and narrower.  When there was nothing but a hard dirt floor below, we would no longer walk on the beams, much less run or fight imaginary bad guys on them.  I remember going out on the beam to attach a rope for swinging on when the barn was empty.  I sat straddle of the beam and "scooched" my way out to where I wanted to tie the rope. 

Oddly, looking back, it was never the climbing up that was scary.  Our mother always said we learned to climb before we learned to walk.  It was only after I got on the beam and could see all the way to the floor that it was scary.  Anyway, that barn provided the perfect platform for every sort of imagination game.  The beams could be the yardarms of a sailing ship,  The walls could be the flanks of Mount Everest.  We built forts and caves and cabins using the bales of hay and vanquished our enemies all day long.  We often became characters from books, movies, or TV shows;  Roy Rogers "the King of the Cowboys" was always a favorite.  Cowboy heroes were very big with boys of my generation and Hollywood gave us a good supply of them.  They were "knights of the Old West" with pure hearts and iron courage, and we in our innocence believed in them.  I'm not sure it's a good thing that today's kids are so much less naive.

Because we lived in semi isolation out in the country, my brother and I usually had to provide our own entertainment.  We didn't have a gang of kids around to play with.  We never thought about this, it was just the way it was.  Sports and games were things we did at school.  At home all play involved imagination even if it was playing an imaginary baseball game (at least I always won!)  To this day, I seem more comfortable in solitude than most people I know.