Most horse owners dream of a barn of their own. We want to watch our horses grazing in the lovely green fields of our imagination—short Irish-green fields, with a bit of mist in the morning; perfect fencing, swallows swooping in and out of the hay loft, while we walk through that dust-mote light that they have on all the Budweiser commercials. And while the reality involves a lot more hard work than that, I have to tell you, it is as cool as you think it would be.
“Among surrounding small towns, my town stands out as weird. It’s like Mayberry and Twin Peaks had a child and gave it to Boo Radley to raise.”
There are usually rules about building stuff. Fortunately, I live in a small Southern town, which means eccentric. Small Southern towns pride themselves on their oddities and their odd folk. Among surrounding small towns, my town stands out as weird. It’s like Mayberry and Twin Peaks had a child and gave it to Boo Radley to raise.
Of course, I thought a lot about design. My method was to consider everything and work backwards from there. I looked at modern barns in Spain designed by a famous architect, barns tucked into a hillside with Tudor beams, shed row styles, and so on. Out of all that, I came back to a traditional style—square with a loft—oriented exactly the same and with the pitch of the roof at the same slope as the house, so they’d “go” with” each other. (A sidenote: “go with”, but not, “match” is a big thing in the South. We use that for everything from shoes and handbags to dresses for twin girls.)
But the barn needed to be a fun color, something that went with the house’s historic greyishness, but more lighthearted. I came up with a shade between robin’s egg and peacock blue. We had all these cool boards made of different kinds of wood, and I love wood grain, so I decided to stain, not paint.
The next move was to get just the right color stain. Unfortunately, I had to practically get into a fist fight with the paint store guy to get him to make me blue stain. “But it won’t be the same color on all the boards!” he kept saying.
“I know, that’s the point,” I’d reply.
After a long argument and plenty of reiterating that there was no refund, he finally made me two gallons of stain. At this point, I was a bit doubtful myself, but I’d made such a huge point of getting the stain I was embarrassed to back down.
“It would be a disaster if this stain looked a really awful mess. The alternative was I’d always wonder what a bright blue barn would look like. I pushed the huge ladder up on the boards, braced its feet, and up I went.”
I got home and to the pasture, and looked at the new boards we’d just put up. Of course, they were the ones that went all the way to the very, very top of the roof peak—25 feet in the air. And they were all one board on each side from the ground to the top of the hayloft, and they were expensive. It gave it a cool, Lord of the Rings air, I’d thought at the time. And it did. But if the stain looked weird, I knew I couldn’t afford to take them down and replace them. In addition to which, putting them up in the first place had been an all-day, sweaty, end-of-physical-ability endeavor that was not without danger; the heavy boards had swayed and wobbled their way to being bolted to the frame.
It would be a disaster if this stain looked a really awful mess. The alternative was I’d always wonder what a bright blue barn would look like. I pushed the huge ladder up on the boards, braced its feet, and up I went.
At the very first brush stroke, a grin broke out over my face. I loved it. This was just the color I’d wanted! Swirls like the ocean, like the earth from space. Totally different from any color in the pasture, but somehow complementing them. The grain of the different woods absorbed the blue paint and each added their own brightness, or shade of brown or green, or amazingly, purple. The barn wasn’t all the same color—but it wasn’t supposed to be. It glowed against the neon green new grass. It grayed and mellowed in the rain. It darkened and stood out against the snow.
And people love it. Well, probably not everyone, but plenty of people. They come to take pictures for graduation, and new babies, and even a bride. Fortunately, my horse loves people and is a huge ham. He photobombs everyone and had to be removed to his stall lest he step on the bride’s enormous, flowing train.
Four years later, I am still in love with my barn. It makes me smile every time I look at it. It’s a traditional barn, but the color says it’s all mine.
About the Author
Andrea Simpson lives in a typically eccentric small Southern town. She lives in a house that was a hospital during the Civil War and is widely believed to be haunted. She has a retired horse, a new horse, various dogs—permanent and foster—and a cat.