By Rick Houser –
In the summer that I turned 15 years old a major event occurred that changed my life. While I was home on the farm alone the prior year ,a hay barn caught fire and burned to the ground. This caused a trauma which I had ever experienced. Up to that time my life had almost always fell on the side of good things happening to and for me, or Dad taking care of whatever bad came our way. But that day I learned what helpless really meant as I had to just stand and watch a barn and over a thousand bales of hay, along with miscellaneous items stored, literally go up in smoke and my Dad wasn’t there to shield me from the whole ordeal.
When Dad returned home he let me know that he was proud of how he heard I had conducted myself through the whole experience. With those words, the summer and the life on our farm returned to business as usual. By late winter it was obvious that the hay stored in that barn was becoming more and more in need to feed the livestock and Dad even had to buy some hay to get us through until spring.
I still don’t know if what happened next was an accident or the cause for the next event. The telephone company was replacing the poles on Fruit Ridge Road and the old poles were for the taking to the first to ask. Dad jumped immediately on this offer and Webb, our hired hand and myself, along with Herb and Charlie Marshall took a hay wagon and loaded telephone poles. The wagon could only haul so many at a time and it took all four of us to load them so that they were secure and safe to haul. This took a few afternoons and I must admit that a pole looks much lighter and easier to handle when they are in the ground with the telephone wires attached.
We piled up the poles near the end of our garden because it was a perfect place to load and unload. I think we hauled them home in March and not until late May did I see or hear of any need or use for these poles. That happened one evening after supper when Dad asked if I had time to listen to a plan he had. When Dad would ask me something like this he had my full attention- hook, line and sinker. After Mom cleared away the evening dishes, we all three sat down at the kitchen table. Dad had a note pad and a couple pencils and I could see he had already been etching something but I wasn’t sure what.
Being anxious I started by asking dDad what was he wanting to talk about. Dad said that it had been made very clear to him that the loss of our hay and mostly that little barn was a very big loss indeed. “So I have decided we must replace that barn with a new one. We have the poles to build a good strong pole barn,” he said. I thought this was a great idea and a new barn was a big item on a farm. Even if the barn was a small barn. I expressed how exciting it sounded that Dad was going to build a new barn. That is when I found out why he wanted to discuss this with me. Dad said he had decided that I should build this barn. To which my response was, What? I said, “Dad I can’t even drive a nail straight much less raise a barn.”
Right then was when he presented what he had been drawing. It was a rough draft for a new barn. Dad explained that since I was in the FFA I was required to do improvement projects on the farm to help out on my application to win a State Farmer Award which was at that time my driving reason to be a success at agriculture. I then explained that I liked agriculture but nobody told me about carpentry.
The rest of the evening my parents spent plenty of time in building up my confidence. In June we picked the location for the new structure and selected the poles to frame it with. We dug deeper than normal holes as the poles would be 12 feet above the ground on the sides and 18 down the middle above the ground and at least three or more feet below the ground. Dad supervised as we figured how much lumber and metal siding and other items were going to be needed.
Once the materials arrived construction began. We dug the holes and with the help of my friend Charlie Marshall we set the poles every 12 feet apart on the sides and center and 12 feet apart across the barn. This formed a 24’ x 48’ barn. Once we completed this, I started to gain a little confidence.
We then began the framing and after Dad had given me a lesson in how to use a square and a level we moved slowly forward. I asked Charlie to help me as he had already helped raise a barn and was the most knowledgeable of the two of us. As the days passed and we made progress, it seemed we were moving a little faster each day. Please remember that between us there was only 30 years of experience but between us we shared a positive attitude more and more every day. Each evening after Dad got home and had supper we would look at the day’s progress. If something wasn’t correct Dad would gently point it out, as just an oversight.
After a couple of weeks the barn was under roof and all complete but a loft section for the hay and the barn doors. By then Charlie and I had enough knowledge and positive attitude that we could do just about anything.
With the barn completed I did my Vo Ag project book for this project and had Mr. Ramey my Vo Ag teacher inspected the job and he gave me his approval which was what I was looking for. Still if it hadn’t been for my Dad pushing me forward to do this and being supportive along with trusting two 15-year old boys to handle this on their own, it probably would have never ended on a good note.
I have always felt that my Dad was an expert at extracting the best a person had to offer and help a person to be stronger in character and confidence. Just take a drive down Fruit Ridge and take a look at our pole barn. It’s still standing!
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories of his youth and other topics. He may be reached at email@example.com.