Remembering The Big Red Barn And “Swinging Bridge”
By W. P. Sissell
Many of you are old enough to remember the days of the great depression. I neither capitalize nor emphasize that for those who do remember those days usually do not remember them with fondness. Never-the-less, I want to talk about some parts of that time today. Writing these columns brings many questions my way. I do not have the answer for many of those answers, but I have found many sources of answers.
The Big Red Barn
Quite often, as I talk to someone about the area where I grew up, when I mention O’tuckalofa Creek Bridge, someone will remark, “You mean where the big red barn and several silos were?”
Of course my answer has to be, “Yes.” I’ll often fill them in on the “swinging bridge,” not far down the creek from the bridge, which was the short-cut to the McClarty farm. Many fishermen on Enid Lake call this place the “Twin Peaks” of Wildcat.
I could roam either a mile north or south from the creek bridge and still be at home. The barn mentioned was not always red. There were mud holes that had to be negotiated at the front and the back in rainy weather. It was super cooled in the winter but it was the work center for us for one of our enterprises was dairying. Those cows didn’t seem to mind but the outside, for years, was the color of weathered wood—somewhat grayish. The original one had hand rived shingles but the new roof was silver tin.
The Barn Gets a New Coat
I don’t often and I never have in this column told about the painting of that barn. This was the barn, with additions, that replaced the one that burned in 1931. Before it was painted, my Dad had replaced all the original siding with either one by six inch weather boarding (horizontal) or one by twelve inch (vertical) siding. All this lumber was pine, sawed on our sawmill out behind the barn. Joe Stribling was the block-setter riding the carriage in the sawing of all the lumber. (He could do most anything he set his mind to.) Dad and Mother had been saving money (special) for buying paint for that barn. Finally, Mr. Reuel and Miss Sadie decided they could afford to paint the building where we all spent a lot of time. In those days, as the saying goes, a dollar was about the size of a wagon wheel, whether you believe it or not. My brother-in-law got a job teaching in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) for, I think, sixty-six dollars a month and he could get full value for it at any bank or store.. He and my sister got married when he got that high paying job—school teacher’s checks, county warrants, could be cashed in some places for fifty percent of the face value. Money was scarce and to order the paint for the barn Mother and Dad had to be careful.
The Coats Are Ordered And Applied
They sat down at the kitchen table (made of boards from the wagon that came to Mississippi from Kansas and we still have it) and opened the Sears and Roebuck Catalog (the big book) and ordered twenty five gallons of barn red paint, many brushes and gallons of linseed oil for thinner. Joe Stribling and his nephew, Russell Wright, took the job of painting the barn. (I told you previously that Joe could do most anything.) The scaffolding for the front and back walls was something to see, for the ridge cap was right at thirty feet high. It took several weeks to complete the coating but that old barn just beamed at us, seeming to enjoy its new coats. Afterwards Dad painted his truck shed and what we called the brooder house to match the barn.
That was the barn I worked in as I grew up. It was the first of many in which I would work. Another, an enormous old barn on the Dry Bayou farm, was originally built as a mule barn and commissary by a logging company. Its layout was unique—most of the posts, including the outer rows were on a slant—looked like it was falling down but was actually very sturdy.
There I learned that my Mississippi State professor, Henry Leveck, was correct when he said that all we needed for cattle in this country was a pine thicket. I had steers on feed and was using a fourth of the Dry Bayou barn for their shed. One morning we got up to see those steers, laying along the bayou bank, coated with about four inches of snow, contentedly chewing their cud.
We built our first “pole barn,” primarily a hayshed, on the Taylor farm and later, another on the Hotophia farm after a highway grass fire could not be controlled and destroyed our hayshed—along with our winter hay supply. (Two of our neighbors gave us their surplus hay. I got to repay one but not the other.) I’m about to forget the oldest of all, the little log barn on the Taylor place. Dad attached a side shed and housed all his equipment.
We thank you for the many accolades. Our wish for you is a wonderful spring—I do love to see things “go green.” You can reach me most of the time at 23541 Highway 6, Batesville, MS 38606, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 662-569-9879.