Tuesday, 16 October 2012


JC wasn't immune to helping out someone who needed help. Even if the task was more of a lost cause, he couldn't stand idly by and watch someone get himself into the glue. He had to pitch in. So when Edgar came up with the idea to resurrect an old barn, JC was there.

Sort of.

The barn was located a couple of miles south of Warner at an old homestead that was settled by who would later become Edgar's in-laws. In fact when the old folks passed away, Edgar's wife inherited that piece of land from the estate. There was also a sizeable house on the property but we won't get into that at this time.

This old barn was larger than was usually found on the average farmstead. It had to be at least sixty feet long by forty feet wide. Built back in the teens it could accomodate eight draft horses, complete with tack and maybe even provide enough room to park a carriage down the center. To say that it was well-built would be a gross understatement--at least when it was in its prime. Like so many buildings of the period it was built to last.

Unfortunately everything has a time limit.

The years of unrelenting prairie winds, blistering hot summers and biting cold winters had taken their toll on that old barn causing it to develop a noticeable lean--about twenty-five degrees--toward the east. Miraculously the roof was still straight and maybe that was the reason Edgar was so determined to salvage the place.

'I can have a contracting crew come over and reinforce the barn, tighten up the walls and the roof, a coat of paint and it will be as good as new.' Edgar declared.

Well, JC applauded Edgar's enthusiasm. But Edgar still had to get a crew together to get the behemoth pushed up straight. Then they would have to get some sturdy braces in place amongst other things so they would be ready for the contractors (Walt, the local handyman to be exact) a couple of weeks down the road.

JC had a better idea though. He suggested that Edgar buy the local fire department a case of whiskey--the standard fee the department charged for demolition duties--and have them practice fire drills. Like, set the building on fire, put it out, then light it again. After the building was completely reduced to ashes all Edgar had to do was dig a large hole, push the remains of the embers in, cover it up and build anew.

Now I might add that JC and Edgar, despite their families being friends for three generations, had some episodes of less than congenial feelings. There was a time when Edgar bought a new-fangled TV set with a remote control. His old dial-a-channel set was still in excellent condition and he sold it to JC who wasted no time getting it home and set up. Then came that fateful day when the new-fangled TV set broke down and had to be sent away to the repair shop. Edgar, being the TV addict he was, ended up dragging the old fifteen inch black and white portable TV, the one with the fuzzy, snowy picture, out of the attic and set it up.

It might have been during the Olympics or some other special event when JC was over for a visit. He strained his eyes for over an hour in an attempt to identify the blurred images as either playing basketball or sweeping snow off their individual doorsteps. Whatever the case, JC finally announced that he was headed home to watch the program in color.

Needless to say, Edgar wasn't impressed; he was even less impressed with JC's brainstorm about hiring the fire department. He might have even acted a little annoyed. No, quite annoyed would be a more accurate guess. The very suggestion of demolishing that stately symbol to the prairie farm life was an atrocity. Hell, with a couple of tractors and loaders, and a load of poles for braces, that crew could have that barn standing plumb in less time than it would take to drive to the city and back.

Yeah, I had a car like that too...

JC had access to a tractor and loader; he also had a big mouth for volunteering to help. Edgar had a tractor and loader of his own so they agreed to meet at the homestead early on Saturday morning to get started.

The job commenced at eight. The crew, consisting of JC, Edgar, Edgar's son, Gord, and grandson, Kelly got right to work. Two tractors a few feet apart, loaders raised and buckets tipped down as far as they could go in order to expose their smooth backs to the walls, gently began to push. Edgar led from the northeast corner pushing the wall a few inches and JC followed. Braces in place, Edgar backed away and maneuvered around to take up a position a few feet south of JC. They kept up the pace until they reached the south end of the barn then started over again.

About five in the afternoon the barn was actually standing straight, just as Edgar said it would; although anyone who participated in such madness had more than a few thoughts as to how much time it actually took. But JC had to admit that it looked pretty good sitting there in the afternoon sun; it showed some potential, finally being returned to it's stance of forty or so years ago. All it needed was for Walt to perform his magic and brace it up properly.

JC still had an uncertain feeling about it though but didn't feel like raining on Edgar's parade so he kept his mouth shut.

At least three weeks had gone by and still no sign of Walt. Walt had phoned Edgar, promising that he would be there as soon as he finished remodeling a house in town. And please don't give up on him.

It was early summer and we all know that summer brings one thing besides lots of sunshine and biting insects: Thunderstorms. There was quite a series of them that summer and there were some lightning displays that were far superior to the fireworks of the Calgary Stampede. Not a spectacular amount of rain fell but it was definitely better than none at all, but that wind sure picked up.

Now that old barn had endured a lot of wind from the west and the north over the years and probably would've stood proudly against either one for many years to come if it was still leaning at it's former position. It could've withstood wind from the west and north with the braces in place but there was one thing that was never considered:

What if the wind blew in from the east?

Oh, don't be silly; that's a lot of nonesense. The wind never blows from the east in this region.

One fateful Saturday night a thundershower blew in. The lightning was spectacular and the thunder was so intense it almost drowned out JC's mother's quilting party. The rain came down in sheets, giving the parched land a large drink of rejuvination, making everyone happy.

And then the wind switched to the east...

It came in gusts, fifteen to twenty knots at first then it intensified to forty to fifty knots. It might have even reached sixty before the storm moved on. The wind was strong enough to push the east wall of the barn away from its braces which readily fell down. It was even strong enough to push the building past center. After that it wasn't much effort at all; a mouse crossing the floor of the hayloft could've been enough to change things forever.

The barn tipped completely over toward the west and with a tremendous crash, collapsed to the ground in a cloud of ancient hay dust.

JC, was that just one case of whiskey for the fire department?

JC can't recall if the firemen were called in to finish the job or not but the barn eventually disappeared leaving no trace that such a building ever existed. And it even bothered JC a little to see it gone. Maybe Edgar was right. After all it was a piece of history that deserved a chance to be strong again.


  1. Oh. My. Goodness. That was amazing! The barn blew over?! Talk about unfortunate timing! Whoever was in charge of the wind that night had a good laugh . . .

    1. It was best to be quiet about that as the owner was more than a little miffed. But it was smashed into kindling. Quite a shame really. Too many of those old sentinals being torn down to make new ones. In time all that will be left will be the memories of those who are still around to remember them. And those are disappearing too. Two people involved with that barn are no longer here.