Friday, February 3, 2017

A Barn Burner

I was about eight years old (which meant it was about 1946) and growing up on a dairy farm in northern New York when my mother sent me out to burn some trash in a barrel.  The barrel was away from all of the buildings on the farm, and there was very little danger to them or anything else in the surrounding area.  I lit the barrel and as it flamed away I lost interest in it.
Remembering that I had a new comic book in my hideout it seemed like a good time to look it over.  My hideout was underneath a piece of machinery stored in the hay mow of the barn.  It had been placed in there on the ground floor of what was known as a bay mow or one that went from ground level to roof.  This kept it in out of the weather for the part of the year it was not in use.  The piece of machinery was a corn planter, and only used to plant the spring crop.
After the corn planter was placed in the mow it was completely covered with hay clear to the roof of the barn.  This was before the days of balers as far as we were concerned so the hay was put in loose as we called it.  All winter long we would feed it to the cattle and by the following spring the corn planter would be uncovered and ready for use again.
As this was in the later summer the barn was full of hay, and I found I could crawl back under the corn planter in a small space for a place of my own that no one else knew about.  I kept a small stash of comic books in there with a flashlight so I could read them at my leisure.  On this day my flashlight burned only dimly, and only for a short time before dying leaving me in the dark.  I was unafraid of being in the dark.  We had no electricity at the time so I was used to darkness any and all nights there was no moon.
After I was left in darkness it occurred to me that I yet had some matches in my pocket left from lighting the barrel afire.  These were the matches of the time which would light from any surface you could scratch them on.  I pulled one from my pocket, scratched it on a corn planter surface, and continued to read my comic.  In only a few seconds it burned down to my fingers.  This, of course, was not good as it hurt so I dropped the match.  Instantly the dry hay flamed up in my face.  As luck would have it, at least on that day, I managed to beat the flames out with my hands before they got completely out of control.  I lay under the old planter for a few minutes scared that the flames would reappear, but they did not so ultimately I crawled out into civilization again.

I burned my hands in the process and my mother questioned how I had done that.  I told her that when I lit the barrel it flared up, but it only hurt just a little bit so she put some salve on the small burns, and I went off to play some more.  The old barn remained there for many more years before it was torn down and replaced by a new one, but it almost needed replacement on that day when I was eight years old.

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