It is not uncommon in upscale magazines to come across articles about barns. A portfolio even, of barns; close-ups, nifty stone work, Dutch doors, haymows, cats, beautiful brick barns, barns painted by Rembrandt, statuesque barns that look as if they never knew a cow pie or ever had a barn cleaner extruding from their south flank. Which was where you were supposed to put the barn cleaner, on the south flank so it thawed by mid-morning of a cold winter. If some did prefer the article frozen as it prevented an occurrence known as back-splash. Barn cleaners could be quite insulting some mornings, and at times disturbingly useless. Explaining why as a kid I dreamed of being a schoolteacher or dying in combat, Vietnam I was told was warm. And why they were on the south side of every barn, except the ones in the magazines. No barn cleaners. No broken windows. No BB gun holes. No loose boards. No basketball hoops. No hay elevators. No desperate October silo fashioned of snow fence and tarpaper in an attempt to contain the surplus of corn silage. No spring mire, that swamp of death where you’re on your own if you slip. As a farm kid I wasn’t much into horror movies, being slimed by a ghost wasn’t a problem like a March morning barnyard was a problem.
Amazing is the breadth of magazines where you can find barns, fashion magazines, food magazines, travel, in-flight, the New Yorker, Audubon, Vogue; sooner or later they fall for this thing about barns, postcard barns, pretty barns, intact windows, red enamel paint versus Fleet Farm latex red which isn’t that red nor as expensive. Not a barn cleaner in sight, a windmill perhaps but no barn cleaner.
It is unwise to complain what with barns being welcomed to their rightful status in the halls of Valhalla, hero barns, worshipful barns. I am pleased that at least some element of agriculture has made it to the A-list, the National Registry, the State Historical Society. What I’m waiting for are sheds, pole sheds. A glossy full-color magazine, a calendar, Christmas cards..of sheds. Pole sheds, machine sheds, sheep and tobacco sheds, free-stall and hay shed, loafing shed. My son-in-law the Norwegian recently wanted some lumber for a project. I told him to look in the loafing shed. He gazed at me like a Neolithic Viking war child might and then in toothful mirth asked “what’s a loafing shed?” More laughter, tee-hee “you have a loafing shed…do I look for pillows?” snicker, snicker. No, I said to him, just the indoor pool and wet bar. That stopped him for a second. As I turned to go he asked so which one? Figure it out yourself, my terse reply.
It’s obvious to any nincompoop except Norwegian nincompoop that a bleedin’ loafing shed is the one without any doors and the requisite south exposure. What does he think loafing is, it’s the same on barns as it was on the Titanic, it’s the sun deck, the balmy corner despite it’s January on the northern tier.
Sheds normally don’t get any respect. I have friends who when they visit cannot resist commenting on the blight of the agricultural landscape caused by the pole shed. Incomparable it is with the barn; they are right, they are incomparable, so why are they trying?
When it comes to perfect utility, the pole shed is in second place only to the igloo, the elm bark wigwam and the tomahawk, never mind in either case I’ll take the pole shed. As to architecture it is on par with a tin can, if a larger economy-size tin can. Except a pole shed has doors and a tin can doesn’t. The pole shed roof doesn’t soar like barn roofs soar but they stay put most of the time. Structurally the pole shed is superior to the average barn, requiring less material and quick to build. Design-wise it is closer to a Lotus Formula One car than it is related to a barn, meaning the stressed skin chassis. A pole shed can be erected in a matter of days, is 99.3 percent maintenance proof, though we did replace the roof nails with gasket screws one summer. It takes a shed to hold a six-row combine and a dozen potato trucks with 24 foot boxes where I can find them again in the spring.
I am waiting for the franchises to catch on that there are available fairly enormous structures out there that with a little judicious panel painting could set off a most credible ad campaign this side of Disneyland. Before proceeding let me claim here the patent rights to the Victoria’s Secret shed, the Angelina Jolie poster shed and the Marilyn Monroe retrospective exhibit to be held at the Russet Potato Exchange Shed in Bancroft. And maybe the L.L. Bean dry fly assortment shed. The rest can be distributed around the farm neighborhood.
Someday shed art will take off for the same reason you can buy 12-month calendars featuring outhouses. Art and what art is can be referenced to a natural process very similar to fermentation. Designed spoilage if you want to remain cynical about it. The pattern of all utilitarian things is they are not exactly art at the outset, a certain interlude is required like as not involving extinction of something characteristically called a way of life. That when what was trashy, low life, hillbilly, dirtball becomes art. I’m OK with that. Did you know they sell calendars featuring windmills, and cows, spinning wheels, old tractors, old cars, porches…I’m waiting for calendars of old women…and sheds.