Old farm buildings have stories to tell

I?ve been spending a lot of time on the road lately. For?tunately, I love driving. It gives me time to let my mind roam. I can see the beauty of the landscape, the clouds, and sometimes indulge myself in flights of fancy.

Rarely do my trip memories involve full-length videos. More often they resemble a series of snapshots, moments caught forever in that instant.

It seems like a lot of those snapshots contain abandoned buildings. I?m fascinated with them. Barns need little or no explanation to a farm dweller. They?re the repositories of odds and ends of years of farm life and might contain anything from a collection of implements that were old before I was born to odd and sundry assortments of parts and tools that no one has any use for until after they?ve gotten rid of them.

Even the dilapidated old barn on our place is full of stuff. We ?just haven?t gotten around? to getting rid of it, since we?re sure it?s all going to be useful someday, somehow… and I?m pretty sure that line got its start when the barn was new.

Abandoned houses are another matter, though, especially the ones you see in the middle of nowhere. Around here, they tend to be made of stone, but I can remember a few where I grew up being wood framed houses. They always make me wonder ?Why??

As a rule, they?re built far enough from a town or quarry to make hauling the building material to the site a minor hardship or major expenditure. What are major roadways now certainly weren?t when construction took place.

They?re usually near a water source, but not so near that wash water wouldn?t be a challenge to get. Some take advantage of nearby shelter, be it a belt of trees or an outcrop of land, while others just seem to have been smacked down by a random giant who decided that the house was old enough to stand on its own two feet, as it were.

What?s more, if you can catch a glimpse inside the tumbled-down walls or shattered windows, sometimes there?s still furniture in there, waiting for someone to come home to use it. And a few, a precious few, have been carved, adorned and beautified.

These places were home. Someone lived there, laughed there, loved there. Why did they leave? I have a hard time believing that anyone would pack up and go simply because they had itchy feet.

I?ve tried to apply any of the hypothetical reasons that the Anasazi left the Four Corners area and only frustrated myself further. I guess the nearest I can get to an explanation is the Dust Bowl. (For those of you who haven?t read it, ?The Worst Hard Time? by Timothy Egan is a good place to start). Still, those empty houses and forgotten memories strike a chord in my mind. I wonder if the ruins remember.

It hits home harder when someone you love is diagnosed with Alzheimer?s. I feel like I?m living next door to one of those houses, watching it crumble a little more each day, or waiting for the next storm to come along and take out another big chunk.

I want more than anything to hire contractors, as many as it takes, whatever the cost, to come fix that house. I want to restore it to its former glory. I want it to be just like I remember it, or like it wants to be remembered.

But deep down, I know that it won?t work. That the crack in the foundation will just keep getting worse. And all too soon, all that will be left will be a few walls with wind sighing through empty rooms.

There are no contractors or doctors who can do that. There is no magic rebuild or miracle pill. There is only survival and remembering.

Even dealing with an Alzheimer?s victim has its own set of pitfalls, like a rotten floor in an abandoned house?you?ve got to hug the walls and get as far as you can before the floor caves in. You choose your words and your steps carefully to preserve what integrity you can.

Sometimes, the light will come through just right and the wind will sigh and you can see what once was. You grab onto that and hold it, for yourself and for them. Because the walls might not remember, but you can.

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