Friday, August 31, 2012

Stopping by a barn on a rainy afternoon


When you write a weekly column, people are always tossing ideas at you.  Mostly they come in the form of, “oh no, you’re not going to write about THAT in the paper, are you?”  But sometimes, it’s not people supplying material.  Sometimes it’s something greater.
It was a rather rainy weekday after a rather busy week.  Visiting my parents at a place we have been hundreds of times, we decided to do what most people never do—be a tourist in your own town.  We all fall victim to this commonality of never going to local attractions until someone from out of town visits, but once the clouds passed we piled in my jeep and hit the back, gravel roads in search of a couple of historical sights.
We drove to a covered bridge that was built just before 1900, for the cost of $150.  The economical engineers of yesteryear figured that if they put a cover over their wooden bridges, the life of the bridge would be much longer.  Covered areas also served as places for the wearing travelers and their horses to rest in a bit of shelter. Now the covered bridge makes an excellent spot for lunch because there’s a picnic table smack dab in the middle of it.  Cars no longer pass through, just tourists and hungry visitors.
This particular bridge was rebuilt in the last decade or so, for the tune of $186,000.   The wood and painting are all new, but there’s just something about stepping back in time. Around the outside of the bridge are lovely flowerbeds, meticulously maintained and mulched with loving hands. 
“I wonder who takes care of all of this?” my mother asked.
And then we went to the barn.
I’ll call her “Joanna” for the purposes of this story, but I’ll tell you that she’s one of the ladies who plants those flowers by the bridge.  The garden club does it, she told us, while we stood there and chatted.
The barn itself is a historical piece, rare not only for the area but for most of the world.  Joanna and her husband have taken it upon themselves to restore it and keep it tidy on the outside.  The inside, well, it’s a barn.  It’s just where stuff goes.  She let us in and walking over ladders and siding, we saw corn equipment that dates back over 100 years, a swing she is reupholstering for her daughter, and a loaded .22 rifle.
“’Possum was in here this morning.”
Joanna is in her 70’s although you wouldn’t know it as she gave us a tour of the barn that quickly transformed into a tour of her life, her yard, and her goldfish pond.  And somewhere along the way, she transformed from a tour guide to a wonderful person with stories of a rich life to share, and by the time we left I wish I could have spent the whole afternoon with her, drinking iced tea and sitting on her front porch, listening to all she had to say.  Some people just radiate kindness and quality.
Instead, when it was time to go, I gave a clear warning that I was coming in to give a hug to seemingly a stranger.
She hugged back.  Tightly, I might add.
I’m always telling my kids that the world is full of people who help make up who you are.  “Everyone has a story to tell, a lesson to teach,” I preach to them.  “Sometimes the person teaches you how to be, sometimes they teach you how not to be.  But you’ve got to pay attention to everyone who crosses your path because it happens for a reason.”
Most times they don’t really listen to me, but next time I give my little speech I’m pretty sure there will be an addendum about historical landmarks, ‘possums, and the value of stopping to say hello.

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