Swinging on the rope. Building straw bale forts. Looking for the kittens.
These are just a few of the fun things that we did in the best playhouse ever…
One of the best places on the farm was the barn. We hadn’t spent much time in the barn on the old farm. This was probably as much a factor of our ages at the time, but we spent a great deal of time in the barn on the new farm. It was a big old wooden structure. It was unpainted and the wood was faded to grey. (Actually the house looked almost the same when we first moved in, and several kids when they came over to our place, said, “Which one is the house?”)
The barn had a big sliding door in the front. And inside it was huge. There were two or three large pens on each side in the front half of the barn. In the back half there were another two or three pens on one side and three or four stalls on the other side. Each stall could hold two cows.
There was a small regular-sized door on the side of barn in the back half of the barn. This is usually where Mom and Dad would bring the cows in for milking, each going to their assigned stall. Mom and Dad milked a couple of cows by hand every day, morning and night.
The best part of the barn for us kids was the loft. There were ‘normal’ stairs (not a ladder) up to the loft, and it was a great open span. The peak of the ceiling was about 20 feet high. It was beautiful.
There were beams on posts across the spans, 10 feet above the floor, that we would practice our balance on. We would walk on the beam, which was about 12 feet long over the 10 foot span. For someone who is scared of heights, it was scary, but I didn’t want to be left out, so I confronted my fear and did it anyway; and I didn’t fall!
It was usually full of bales that we could make into forts and tunnels.
The loft provided lots of hiding places for the mama cats to have their kittens, and we enjoyed searching for the newborn kittens. We needed to find them before they got too old, or they would be ‘wild’. We would watch for where the mama would crawl into or out of a hole in the bales. Then we would peek in. We had to make sure we didn’t expose them too early though, or mama cat would just move them to another hidey hole.
One of the most fantastic things about the loft was the rope that was hanging from the ceiling at one end. It was a thick, 1 inch, rope. We spend many hours swinging from bale pile to bale pile or even out the open door at the end.
How Did the Bales Get Into the Loft?
There was a small door in the front of the barn loft, right above the big main barn door. It was through this door that the bales were transported to the loft with the bale elevator. This is a machine that was a simple frame with a chain pulley up the middle. The chain had dull spikes every couple of feet to grab the bales. The bales would be placed on the elevator and ride up the chain to be dropped off the end into the barn loft. From there, they had to be moved and stacked manually (or kid-ually!). These were the small rectangular bales of long ago, not the big round bales that you see in the fields nowadays.
The other use for the small door in the barn loft was to test our bravery! The door was about 9 feet above the ground. And us kids would, of course, have to jump out of it, just to see if we could do it. We could! And, surprisingly, no one broke an ankle or a leg.
Puppet Shows and Other Activities
That barn loft was our favourite place, especially in the summer. We played up there often, with our friends, or just us sisters together.
We would put on puppet shows for our families that we made up with our neighbours and our cousins. First, we made the puppets. The heads we made with paper mache using flour, water and newspaper, pasted around a light bulb or a balloon. Then we painted the faces on and glued yarn on for hair. We made the clothes with scraps of fabric to match whatever characters we had in our play!
They certainly weren’t fancy, but they served our purpose, which was to have fun!
We would also have tea parties and picnics in the loft. A blanket, sandwiches and some lemonade was all we needed.
Sometimes, we brought blankets out to the barn and slept overnight in the loft. The cats and kittens loved it, and would lie purring beside us.
We weren’t the only ones who slept in the barn loft. One summer day, Louise and I went up to the loft to play, and we were surprised (indeed, shocked!!) to hear a voice say, “Hello”. We turned and there was a man in the loft. We returned the “Hello” (we were brought up to be polite!), and then we ran downstairs to tell Dad.
“There’s a man in the loft!” Dad went to investigate and found Frank Stanhope. He said he was walking from Ontario to B.C. (or vice versa, I can’t remember) for a job. He was taking the side roads parallel to the highway and sleeping wherever he could find suitable accommodation. Our farm was on the back road 1 mile from the Highway 2, and I guess our barn looked comfortable!
After talking to Frank, Dad hired him to help on the farm for a few days. He slept in the little house, and after a few days, he was on his way and we never heard from him again. I was around 11 years old when Frank Stanhope appeared. My foremost memory of him (besides finding him!) was one time when I came into the kitchen when Mom was preparing supper. Frank looked at me and said to Mom, “I didn’t know you had a boy!” I didn’t let Mom cut my hair again after that! Bowl cut!!
The barn loft remained a mainstay of our leisure hours until we moved away. Even at 18 years old, we still loved to swing on that rope and rearrange the bales. The barn, the best playhouse in the world, made up for the basement!
‘Til next time…
From Your Mom