Friday, December 9, 2011


My fondness and fascination with barns began long before they became a favorite subject for my art. Like so many things in my life it had its origin in my childhood experiences on our family farm. It wasn’t the architecture and visual interest that appealed to me, I was too young to appreciate those qualities, besides our barn had none of that. It was the comfort and intimacy of the interior, the smell of fresh straw and hay, and the warmth of the animals during the cold winter days that I found so enticing. Granted, the appeal was much less in the hot, humid days of summer, but it’s the good things we tend to remember.

For several years we had a family cow that provided our milk (and butter), as well as a calf destined to reach our table as veal. That is something I prefer not to think about. One of my chores was to milk the cow after school, a task I did under duress during the deep days of summer. The barn was hot, the air thick and heavy, and seated by her udder with my head on her flank I would be smacked in the face repeatedly by her tail which was flipping from side to side to remove the flies that invariably settled on her. But in the cold days of winter it was an entirely different experience. I recall reading once that a cow generates enough body heat to warm a small cottage. I don’t know if that is true or not, but I can say with certainty that the animal gives off heat. Sitting on that stool with my head pressed into her flank was like sitting in front of a heat vent… and there was not tail to worry about…and her teats warmed my hands better than any gloves could. Warm and cozy...something I could appreciate even at that age.

The description of this experience would not be complete if I did not mention the kittens, which seem to be found in every barn everywhere. Somehow they knew it was milking time, and I loved to watch them scramble over one another after I would squirt them with a stream of milk.

I think milking a cow one more time will go my bucket list.

Forty years later another barn, in another place, with horses and not cows and sheep, came into my life. But that’s another story.

The barn as I remember it. The livestock entered by a door on the left side. The second and third floor housed chickens.

My mother's painting...done after the barn sat unused for years...oil...14x20

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