TREASURES BENEATH THE RAFTERS
There’s a finished painting on the easel beneath the rafters in the artist’s attic atelier at artCentral. The painting is a Christmas gift for the artist’s equestrian sister. The painting needs a frame. Because the painting’s subject is a woman riding bareback on a dappled pony, the artist, an experienced framer, wants to make a frame of weathered barn wood.
Our friend, Jan Stuckey, has a collection of old barn siding she’s rescued from her neighbors’ aged structures. Jan says she’ll be delighted to share
By GPS we find our way on a cloudy day past property lines defined by elegant upright lace woven by naked trees and regal hawks stationed on fencepost stanchions. Beside the road, just beyond our last turn, on a bit of a rise between aged cedars, sits the modest white, two-storied, front-porched farmhouse Jan calls home. She’s the sixth generation to operate her family’s farm. Established in 1839, hers is the oldest farm registered in Jasper County.
Back-dropped by her cattle herd, Jan greets us freckled and smiling in sturdy boots and quilted jacket, designer eyeglasses and a fleece-lined cap with flaps. A very black and pregnant bovine, Precious, gives us her best soft-eyed look hoping to receive a hand-held biscuit treat.
“Watch your step,” Jan says as we navigate our way around paddies and through her elaborate iron fence maze that leads to her majestic barn.
The barn’s grand interior feels like a very primitive Downtown Abbey with a main hall and all sorts of passages and anterooms scattered on either side. “Watch your step,” Jan says as she directs us hand over hand and wrung above wrung straight up a sturdy ladder through a hole in the floor of the enormous loft above.
Standing up we marvel at the floor-to-ceiling ancient hay Jan’s working to remove. We’re enchanted by the stained-glass lighting created by colorful feedsacks temporarily covering the high up windows and meant to discourage entrance by the resident owl whose droppings are making a mess all over.
With awe we admire the vaulted rafters towering above us, while the artist recounts the discovery of a barn in Great Britain which uses the skeleton of the Mayflower turned upside down, erected and roofed to be a magnificent working barn much like Jan’s where today we find treasures of weathered barn wood that are perfect for the artist’s Christmas gift for his sister.
There’s a story of a boy child born in a barn in this blessed season. My mother, too, was born in December in a barn beneath vaulted rafters. Lovely stories, both. Perhaps treasures for telling another time.