This is a special memory from my own childhood.
Axie’s Dad over at Things my Grandchildren Should Know recently shared a post about the barn of his childhood and it reminded me of our old barn except our old barn was very dilapidated. I have no idea how old it was. I did Google my old address and found that the house had been built in the 1890s!
While the barn was falling down around us, it was another one of those places filled with memories of my youth. I had a talent for finding the one board with a rusty old nail sticking up and stepping on it. I always managed to do this just after my last 6-month tetanus booster. I hated tetanus shots. I don’t remember my mom, sister or Dad ever stepping on a nail– just me!
The barn was also our favorite place to have a Mud Pie Bakery. I loved making mud pies and mud cookies. It meant finding just the right pebbles to decorate them with, too. I was always very disappointed that I couldn’t eat them! The barn also held the magic of the rabbit hutches. There were 4 or 5 of them and my sister and I used to love to go looking for baby bunnies to hold. For anyone who may not know a mother rabbit makes her nest out of fur she pulls from her belly. That fur sticks really good to the clothes of 2 little girls who don’t want to go to church! Our mother would always be running late and this would be the final straw. We just wouldn’t go! I think my Dad was grinning about this behind her back.
The barn was also where Daddy kept a couple of Model-Ts that he had bought at an auction. I have no idea why or what he did with them. I do remember being 6 or 7 when he let me sit behind the wheel of one of them and steer while he pulled it out of the barn with the tractor. I had to sit on my knees to do it but I drove a car! I was very proud.
The old red barn must have been about 65+ years old when Dad decided to start tearing it down. I must have been about 10. I can almost see the little metal tin of blasting caps he found in one of the lofts. My sister and I had been hoping he would find some kind of wonderful treasure up there but no such luck. He had no idea how long the caps had been out there. One of the previous owners may have left them there after blasting out the gravel pit down the lane. I had such a cool backyard to play in, almost 50 acres!
Daddy thought the smart thing to do was to detonate the caps so he put them outside on the pile where we burned the trash — the same place where my sister and I would later burn trash and catch the backyard on fire. I remember we had to stand on the porch far away while he waited for them to explode. He counted the explosions and I don’t remember how many there were I just remember there was one to few. Dad waited and waited. Finally deciding it must have been a dud he approached the fire just as it finally went off. He was hit in the left eye with 3 pieces of metal. I don’t remember the ambulance coming but they did and they took him directly to the University of Ann Arbor. The doctors were able to remove 2 of the 3 pieces but the 3rd one was in a place where they couldn’t get to it and still save his vision so they decided to leave it in.
In my memory, he was in the hospital for a few weeks. I don’t have anyone who can verify that information anymore. I remember my mother taking us to see him while he was still there and getting caught in one of Michigan’s unexpected snowstorms and we slept in the car on the side of the road until the snow plows came through. He wore his eye patch for what seemed like a longtime. I think he always wore glasses but when the patch came off the doctors prescribed a special hard contact lens, too. This must have been about 1960 and contact lenses were something very new. I remember he had a special little rubber tool with a suction cup on the end that he used to remove it and I can remember him showing it to the neighborhood kids! With his new contact he could see pretty well but for a long time things like a hot oven or an open fireplace bothered him. It would cause his eye to feel heated and it would tear a lot.
Daddy never finished tearing down the barn although it is gone now. It wasn’t long after this that he and my mother separated and life got really interesting but I would rather focus on the barn.