Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Branding the Barn: Finding the Marks Left Behind

In all of my barn hunting, I have discovered one universal truth: no two barns are the same. From the road, a red gambrel roof barn may look very similar to its neighbour, but just a little investigation always reveals  that this is not so. There are differences in construction, size, formation, etc., but each barn also boasts unique features, signatures if you will. Some barns are identifiable for miles around because of a distinctive exterior detail, like a date painted on the loft door or a large met ventilator, or multiple cupolas, or a distinctive weather vane. But nearly every barn I have seen also harbours many secrets inside its walls.

I quickly discovered that barns often have some sort of graffiti inside, whether a date traced in a cement floor, a cattle brand burned into the wall, or even spray painted initials of youngsters in love. Now whenever I go into a barn for the first time, I'm always on the lookout for these barn signatures. Often people will point them out to me right away, indicating that they are just as interested as I am. This barn graffiti is significant because it shows that people felt a barn was an important enough place in which to leave their mark. A good many people spent a goodly portion of their lives working in barns, so it's no surprise that they wanted to leave behind some evidence of their having been there.

And so now, for your viewing pleasure, is a selection of some of the barn art I've come across.

A name is carved in the cement floor of a barn southwest of Radville. There might have been a date once too, but it appears to have slipped through the cracks of time.

The preceding two photos come from the Verot barn southeast of Radville. The first was the cattle brand of Peter Verot, now deceased. The "AV" probably stood for Alphonse Verot, Peter's uncle and the man who had the barn built in 1918. There was also the name "Hlavka" carved nearby, but too faintly for the camera to capture it. Peter's wife, Alexina, who was in the barn when I took these photos, remembered that they had once had a hired man in the 1940s with that last name. Apparently he didn't want to be forgotten and the barn bears his memory still, however faint.
Another "A.V." - this one is carved in a barn southeast of Ceylon owned by the Verbeurgt family.
Continuing with the "A" theme, this one comes from the North Star barn south of Ceylon. Allan Ayotte figured it was probably him who put it there when he was a kid during the 1950s.
A young couple expressed their love for each other with spray painted initials in a barn southeast of Radville.

These three photos all come from the same barn southeast of Radville.
These last two photos came from a barn southwest of Radville. It was built from the boards of a barn that was taken down southeast of Radville in the '60s. The present owner thinks these paintings must have come with boards from that barn, or perhaps boards salvaged from an old house. Wherever they came from, they are an unexpected and delightful surprise, particularly this painting of a tree. The "J.D" in the top photo may be for John Deere.
"M.M" initials carved into the wall of the chop bin in the McGrath barn southwest of Ceylon, built 1912.

A larger view of the wall, which is full of carving and pencil marks, though they aren't very clear in this photo. However, I can make out "Big Cow." What can you see?

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