Closing the Barn Door Before the Horse Bolts

The barn is probably one of the most quintessential imagines of the American countryside.  Primarily an agricultural structure, a barn is usually found on farms or as outbuildings on large properties. A barn can be used for many purposes, including storing feed, hay, livestock or machinery. Many countries have their own idioms and expressions of humor surrounding the use of the word barn. For instance, in England, if a person exhibits poor manners or leaves a door open when it’s cold, one might say ‘were you born in a barn?’ Of course, the most popular one in general relates to solving an issue once it is too late to stop it, hence the term, ‘closing the barn door after the horse has bolted’.  Oh, and let’s not forget the humorous comments at the person who is a lousy shot and ‘couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn’.

Raising the Barn Roof

As barns were so necessary for thousands of American farmers, they would build the structures with timber frames. However, typically, the sides of the barn were difficult to erect on one’s own, so the farmers often built the structures on the ground and then invited friends, family and locals over to help raise the sides together. Barn raising became a huge tradition, and in some Amish communities, continues to this day unchanged, especially in parts of Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio and Canada.

Modern built barns in most other places tend to rely on a crane and a tiny crew of helpers, rather than making it the traditional experience that it used to be. However, many ‘old school’ farmers enjoyed the experience of inviting their neighbors over for a pot luck lunch, a barn raising and a party afterward. It was a huge occasion that brought communities together and of course, what goes around comes around, so when the next farmer built their barn, the community would go over and help him too.

The essential part of the barn, of course is the barn door, which can be a sliding door or a hinged door. Modern barns tend to favor sliding doors because of the ease of movement at opening and closing them. The old hinged doors tended to end up warped and creaky because of their weight. A secure barn door is also vital so that you animals can’t just walk out.

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