Two Men in a Barn by Pleun Bouricius
A few weeks ago I spent some time one morning standing around with two men in a very large and very old barn, we three trying to solve a problem. If we’d
had them we’d have been thoughtfully pulling on our beards. The barn is a landmark here in Plainfield, and it happens to live down the road from where
I do. It is, unfortunately, showing signs of age even more significantly than I do. But then it is also quite a bit older. Until recently it stood
proudly, if supported by braces on one side at the brow of a hill for close to two hundred years, by my best guess.
This past winter has not been kind to this barn. One gable end is, in a marine term Melville liked to use, “stove in,” and the big doors in the north wall
have developed a large wobble that doesn’t bode well for the plate from which they hang. And people have been taking notice. Ever since the snow went,
there’s been whispering, “did you see what the Guyette barn looks like?”
The barn is held, along with the farm on which it stands, in conservation by the Franklin Land Trust,
and one of the men was one of their people. The other was a townsman of mine, a traditional post and beam builder and rescuer of barns. I crashed this
party because I am the curator of the Plainfield Historical Society and as such the barn, being a Plainfield antiquity, falls under my protective wing
in a manner of speaking. But really I was there because like to butt into things and I thought it wasn’t only about what to do about the barn technically,
but also what to say about the barn that matters a lot. Plus I’d never been inside. Not that I am curious or anything like that.
The news wasn’t good. Even if the walls were stove in by nothing more serious than snow and ice pushed up by the road crew, which is how I had been reassuring
myself for a couple of months, the larger story is that, despite the braces, the barn continues to slide off its foundation as it has been for years.
Plus, and this is the new and very disconcerting part, the very complex joints at the top of the large flaring (“gunstocked”) posts are breaking apart:
the posts and walls are falling away from under the roof. Truly, barns do rely on gravity to hold together—without ground under its feet, this
barn is doomed…… Read More