Daddy left barns full of wood. Last night, I slept on the screen porch, totally surround by him.
The barns are a source of frustration for me. Messy, sliding, tumbling, old boards might have been stacked one day. Now they’re an inefficiently, stored reminder that he’s not here for them and that I can’t do what he could do.
Not a professional wood reclaimer, he just loved boards. He loved the dream of what he might make from a board snagged from an old house. The future of the board. He did make beautiful furniture. But that passion came last. Making sure we had cows around to learn from, veggie gardens, tractors, people he respected for us to work with. Making sure we had dinners and interesting guest in the coolest, ricketiest, most welcoming old house around. All came first. His art and love for boards got wedged in at odd angles.
We tore down more old shanties and barns that I can remember. The history of the board. His wood collecting still drives us. Just yesterday, my sister sent me a text message of a barn, way out in an Allendale county cypress swamp. He loved it, we camped in it sometimes, we planted pine seedlings all around it. Now it’s shaded by a grove of trees. I know a barn in trees in a barn abandoned. He knew the story of that barn, who built it, where the wood came from. They bought it from his Grandmother, just after they got married – and the land around it for $50 an acre. He schemed and knew exactly how we’d number the boards, tear it down and rebuild it.
Last night, a few great dad’s came over with their children, to grill out and hang out on our little farm surrounded by Daddy’s barns full of wood disarray. Bruise colored clouds rolled over the even more emerald than normal magnolia trees. In 3 minutes we’d all run inside, everybody with mayonnaise or watermelon in hand, into a dark house; trees on the power lines. We ate in the dinning room, the dinning room that for ten years, before Momma reclaimed it, was Daddy’s woodshop — cordoned off but feeding repairs in the rest of the house.
The bedrooms were too hot, the air and attic fan out of service. I slept on the screen porch all chilled from damp, damp air and a breeze that sometimes blew droplets trapped in the screen over me. Leaf noises, blowing noises, crickets and frogs make for sleep that’s deep, but not afraid of being interrupted to get up for a while, get a water, watch the lights of the power crews across the field. I love when sleep is like that. It means you don’t have to get up and get somewhere the next day.
I slept in the swing. The same noises, humidity, chills, blankets, the same porch he fixed up 30 years ago. It was like sleeping with Daddy, on a long cushion Momma made to soften the boards he’d harvested from some barn. I got to make them into a swing after he died. Thanks for dreaming this place up and teaching me that every board has a story and a future.
Over the past year, Tom, Momma and a bunch of friends and volunteers have held rebuild one of these barns. We’ve made it into a really cool studio. All the wood, all the walls, windows, doors and floors are made from wood that Daddy collected and loved. We’ll use it for tours, for drawing, for sleep overs for people who come to visit the crinum fields that are build on his gardens.