The barn
 Memories of the barn
My father wrote this story, reflecting on some of the personal history witnessed by this fine old barn.

The barn has stood there for more than a century.  It is a beauty; rusty red with white Gothic windows.   For the last 28 years only the names of my wife and me have been on the deed to the land where the barn stands but we are not the only owners and will never be.  The barn belongs to all the men, women, and kids who filled it with hay, milked cows in it, tended generations of animals in it.  And to those, who on a cold winter’s night or a balmy summer’s evening with the smell of new hay in the air, stood looking at that high roof line against the moon and felt the magic of it; and sometimes thanked God for it.

Early in our tenure, like old MacDonald, we filled the bottom of the barn with cows, sheep, goats, cats, pigs, and two horses.  Itinerant raccoons and possums lived there periodically:  They never complained about the menu but they preferred cat food when available.  The cows mooed, the pigs grunted and complained, the sheep and goats bleated, the horses whinnied; the bottom of the barn was a noisy place.  And active.  Baby goats bounded around their stalls, literally leaping off the walls.  The pigs rooted and competed fiercely for food.  Lambs sprang out of their stalls in their stiff legged way.  The cats played and fought their war games.  And one little red calf regularly escaped from her stall and streaked down the aisle necessitating a four-legged skidding panic-stop to avoid the wall at the end.

Behind this commotion and known only to its members a secret organization was formed which met regularly in the bottom of the barn:  The Starlight Horse Club.  Although the full range of its clandestine operations is not known to this day, the instigator appears to have been daughter Julie who had two horses (Melody and Smokey) and a barn.  Julie was in the right place at the right time--thus is the course of history changed.  There were three charter members:  Julie, Laurie, and Kathy.  Laurie had her own horse.  Kathy, horseless, adopted Smokey.  The girls were nine or ten at the time Starlight was formed and all three stayed with it until its apparent demise.

Starlight was apparently formed for educational, recreational, and social purposes.  It is said that the group was in possession of an anatomically accurate diagram of a horse.  Education was served by studying the diagram so as to be familiar with the rump, hocks, hooves, and other important equine parts.  Starlight members frequently saddled up and rode, ostensibly for recreational purposes.  However, the destinations and true purposes of those mysterious trips have never been fully disclosed.  The group often set up camp on a hill, the highest point on the farm.  Clearly, these camp-outs served social needs and possibly other hidden agendas.

The camp-outs led to the inclusion of the final and only male member of the club.  Julie’s younger brother, Brad, had no horse.  However, he was at that stage where most boys are pyromaniacs and he loved fires and all things connected with camping.  We will never know with certainty how Brad wormed his way into an all female secret society.  One can only surmise that he followed them to their hidden places, skulked around the fringes of the camps, and generally made a pest of himself.  Probably a useful pest, fetching firewood and doing the mundane chores of camping which freed up the female power structure for more creative considerations, one of which would be, What to do about Brad?

The minutes of club meetings have never been found.  Perhaps the discussion went like this.

Laurie:  “Julie, you have to get rid of Brad.”

“I know it.”  Julie spots Brad hiding in the bushes and yells, “Brad, get out of here.  This is just for us.”  Brad retreats deeper into the woods.  Julie says, “I ought to tell on him.  But then they would know…about us.”

Kathy:  “Well, if he keeps hanging around, he’s gonna know everything we do.”

Julie, gloomily:  “I know.  At least he doesn’t know where we meet in the barn.”

Brad, from the bushes:  “Yes I do.”

Julie yells:  “You little fink.  Get outta here or I’ll tell.”  Julie lowers her voice, says: “Talk low so he can’t hear us.  We have to figure this out.”

Laurie:  “He probably knows everything, anyway.  Maybe we should let him join.  We can probably get him to do a lot of the work.”

Kathy:  “Yeah.  And he’s sort of cute.”

Julie:  “Oh for Pete’s sake.  Well, let’s vote.   Who wants him in?  Raise your hand.”

No hands go up.  Kathy:  “Laurie, you said we should let him join.”

Laurie retorts:  “Well, you said he’s cute.”

Julie:  “He probably knows most of our stuff, anyway.  Let’s just sort of let him in.  If he promises to keep everything secret, I mean.”

Laurie:  “Okay, but he can’t vote.”

Kathy:  “Yeah.  And he can’t ride the horses.  He has to carry stuff for us and just do the work.”

They call Brad in and he agrees to the conditions.  He is now a limited member of the Starlight Horse Club.

The club lasted for three or four years and then like Puff, the Magic Dragon, it was no more.  There was no final meeting to dissolve the organization; no termination vote; no final minutes.  Probably, there was no intent to stop and no knowledge of the end when it came.  The kids grew up and moved away.  The animals were sold or died and the barn became a much quieter place.

Years later I was cleaning some ancient bedding out of a barn stall.  Far back in a corner under a manger, hidden in the straw I found an old quart canning jar.  I could see coins and a paper in it.  I took the lid off and the paper out.  I had discovered the treasury and the only known written record of the Starlight Horse Club.  I held these precious things for some minutes.  Then I put the paper back in the jar, resealed it, and re-hid it where it had been before.

Copyright 2000 by Wayne Vinson

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