The barn that Grandpa built

Shortly before World War II, when my dad and his twin brother were not yet 10 years old, their dad (Grandpa Hibbard) announced, “We need to build a bigger barn with more stanchions for the milk cows. If we build near that spring it will flow into a cooler with the milk cans. We will build a hay loft big enough to hold hay to feed the cows through the winter.”

My dad helped where he could and as he was told. To make sure folks remembered he was there, he signed his name to the building, writing “Merton” on one of the new boards.

Through the war and after, the growing twins spent summers hauling hay to the barn and building muscles for fall football.

Both brothers and their little sister married young. My dad went off to college. Uncle Bert stayed on the farm with his bride. Grandpa asked him, “Do you want to buy the farm?”


They moved into the big house. Grandpa built a smaller ranch house down the road. He continued to show up at the barn to help milk cows, plant crops and put up hay. In the 1950s, grandchildren toddled alongside their dads (who were brothers) and their Grandpa to the barn to see the animals. By school age they had chores. Even cousins who did not live on the farm hauled bales to the hay wagon and off-loaded them onto the hay elevator inside the barn. In the safety of the hay fields, most learned to drive.

In the 1960s, Uncle Bert made his last payment on the farm. The extra cash paid for a gutter cleaner in the barn. He did not use the device very long. He found a job at a nearby plant, sold the milk cows and kept feed stock. Family still needed to help haul hay bales to the barn every summer for the cattle to eat in the winter. My dad moved us across the country, but his roots said his sons needed farm work, so during the summers my brothers went back to the farm to help.

None of Uncle Bert’s children nor their cousins wanted to be farmers. He sold off the live stock. All but two of the 11 grandchildren moved away. The two left in upstate New York bought acreage that included the barn. Nearby farmers bought the rest of the land. Four generations of Hibbards worked and played in the barn. The spring still flows in the milk house, but it does not cool any milk in cans. For many years, folks still went to the hay loft but only to store equipment or to play.

In time, rain and snow took their toll on the roof, and the timbers sagged. My cousin who owned the barn said, “You need to get your stuff before the roof falls.” She warned parents, “now you watch them if they go to the barn.” Eventually she had the hay loft torn down.

An area farmer asked about the gutter cleaner. “It wasn’t used much or for a long time,” she said. They worked out a deal.

During our recent family reunion, she mentioned my dad’s signature on the barn beam. “If you want that, you better get it. The rest of the barn needs to be torn down,” she said.

It will be. Maybe not this year, but in time, the once-proud accomplishment of my grandfather and his sons will disappear. The spring will continue to flow over the stone foundation. All that will remain will be the board with a name, pictures, stories of hot summer days hauling hay to its loft and memories of cool winter mornings spent pitching hay down to cows.