Diary Discovered in an Old Barn

The Rosenfeld BarnBehind the manager, in what looked like an old box that might once have stored bridles and halters because there was still a slight smell of leather in it after all these years, and a slight medicinal smell (maybe of udder balm but also somewhat like Raleigh’s Black Horse Slave) – in this box was found a log book – or diary – strapped together with leather thongs within shingle-thin wooden bindings. Close examination indicated that the entries were at once so specific, and yet so varied, that they could not possibly have been written by one human individual – and yet the handwriting was the same for every entry! With some reluctance, all who examined the diary concluded that it could only have been written by the barn itself. Following is an exact recounting of a portion of the barn’s diary as it was found:

“MY DIARY – 1897-1961”
1. Animal births – 729 kittens, 528 pigeons, 689 rats, 299 calves (all but 3 of which were Holsteins, the other being Hereford feeder heifers), 667 sparrows, 137 barn swallows, 12 colts (4 of which were Shetland ponies), 18 puppies, 14 Leghorn chicks, 2 weasels
2. Animal deaths – 96 cats, 57 pigeons, 710 rats (500 killed by cats, 60 by dogs, 10 by shotgun, others by traps and rat poison), 33 cows, 210 sparrows, 18 barn swallows (16 from flying into windows), 3 dogs, 0 weasels, 3 skunks (by shotgun), 2 barn owls, 88 starlings, 2 badgers, 6 pigs, 14 chicks, and 1 chicken
3. Human births – 2
4. Human deaths – 1
5. Dog bites – 44
6. Cat scratches (3 involving serious infection) – 144
7. Rat bites – 16
8. Individuals sprayed by skunks – 3
9. Individuals smoking first cigarette – 22
10. Individuals drinking first alcoholic beverage – 22
11. Individuals experiencing first romantic encounters – 22
12. First fights involving two individuals – 9
13. First fights involving more than two individuals – 4
14. Father-daughter arguments – 16
15. Husband-wife arguments – 2
16. Father-grandfather arguments – 38
17. Father-son arguments – 3,189
18. Games of tag – 610
19. Games of hide-and-seek – 350
20. Other games, including basketball on empty haymow floor – 998
21. Broken arms – 2
22. Concussions – 8
23. Private weeping by one individual – 77
24. Private praying by one individual – 16
25. Group revival meeting – 1

Note: The journal had a total of 720 entries, some of them too shocking or private to record on these pages, some of them seemingly insignificant but evidently important enough for the barn to record, for example: “Number of times doors left unlatched to blow mercilessly in the wind – 1,106.” In any event, the editors have decided that some things are too personal to print.
From: “Harker’s Barns – vision of an American icon” , by Harker and Heynen, University of Iowa Press, ISBN 0-87745-834-0

Barns and the American Landscape

Modern ways seem to have no space for the storage of our noble historical parts. The American barn, which is rapidly vanishing from our landscape, is symbolic of a communal heritage. The “old farm barn” has again invented another new vocation for itself. It has become an American Icon, while imposing a dilemma upon its stewards.

For a detailed editorial on the subject, check out this article by Dennis Cauchon published in USA TODAY.
"American landscape losing its old barns"

BARNS – a definition

Most simply said, "an old barn is an honest expression of the way a farmer and his family lived their lives".

Recommended Pictorial Barn Sites


Iowa Barn Foundation:

The Barn Journal:

Ohio Barns:

The Barns of Underhill: A Pictorial Survey:

Wisconsin Barns: Stories in Wood & Stone:




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