Sunday, June 08, 2003

Smell of an old barn


Cousins,
Don't know what it is about a barn that draws folks into it. It is the look, surely. I love the careful clutter of an old barn. Tools placed on the walls or hangin' from a beam. Nails driven in just far enough to be convenient for an ol' sheep shear or maybe a shovel handle.

Up to the hayloft there is always a surprise. I reckon y'all might see that ol' yaller striped cat with another load o' youngin's. I don't care much for her morals. She's always got an ol tom from some farm hangin' round, courtin' her till it's time to care for the youngin's. Then it's up to me when she starts bringin' em round the back door to the cabin

All these things make a barn a wonderful place...but it is the smell that I love. A tobaccer barn has a sharp smell different than others. Like a giant cigar when you walk in and smell. Take another deeper whiff and you'll smell the fertilizers in the corner. Get too close to ol' Joe's stall an' all ya will smell is mule droppin's. That adds to the smell though. It is rich and earthy as you smell the rest.

Close to the harnesses and tools the air becomes slick with oils rubbed careful like on tools and leather for a hundred years. In some places the ground is dark with the remains of the oils that fell to the sweet, sacred earth of our beloved Appalachia.

The ground underfoot is hard like an ol' rock from feet comin' and goin' day after day, year after year...generation after generation. The path is one that could be navigated in the dark because it is so familiar.

Walk over to the harnesses and collar and smell deeply. There, there is the smell of rich leather soaps used to clean and keep supple. The oils added to keep the leather for dozens of years and help it shine in the hot Kentucky sunshine.

Here and yonder it will smell dusty, but no the dust of neglect or abandon. It is the dust from generations using a barn well.

Look, see, smell...remember. Do not let our barns and farms fade in your memory. They are callin' us home even now. The homeplace beckons. The barns that stand empty now ait for us to know what we have lost. The soil cries out to its tenders...

come home. Come home to the hills, to the hollers. Come and work me, till me, walk my hills and know your blessing, your heritage. Daddy's generation left, but did not forget the call. Again and again the roads were filled with children of Appalachia goin' home. It just was never long enough.

The hills call us back. they call to our youngins. They call to our blood, no matter how thin, they are haunted by the call of the soil in our blood, the smell of the barns, the sight of an ol' cabin. Stop and listen, quiet like it calls, it sings in our ears, beats a rhythm in our blood...

Come home, youngin's, come home.
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