October 2017
Simple Times

Old Buildings and Old Wood Make Me Happy

 

This corncrib on the Stewart farm in the Murphree Valley area of Blount County is over 100 years old.

Every now and then I have to go to a local, big home building supply store to buy a couple of pieces of wood, if there’s not a suitable piece in the stash stuck under my store.

I know I drive the men there crazy because I make them dig down into the stacks to find just the right pieces, whether it’s a simple two-by-four or a supposedly durable piece of three-quarter-inch plywood.

Somehow it seems (like so many things in this world) that wood just isn’t the same any more.

And I’m not alone in my feelings!

Someone very dear to me got really excited this week because he had the chance to get some heart pine 2-by-12s from an old building about to be torn down.

Old barn wood can set some women friends of mine into a complete old-time tizzy!

And my old kitchen cabinets may not look like much (even though I’ve stripped them down to the bare wood) but they ARE wood-- nice solid wood, not just for the doors but the entire cabinets! You don’t find that much any more!

And what better place to find old wood than in old buildings?

When I’m around an old building, you will find me sniffing, touching and even caressing those pieces of knotty pine or sturdy white oak!

Blount County is blessed to have three covered bridges still in use! When my kids were growing up, we lived just a rock’s throw from Horton Mill Covered Bridge. It was the focus of frequent walks and other good country times.

All I have to do right now is walk into that old bridge and SMELL ... the wood has a unique aroma ... maybe from the dampness ... I’m not sure ... but it’s a smell I smell no where else. And it takes me back to when my grown kids (some of whom are grandparents themselves) were racing across that old bridge 75 feet above the flowing river below, laughing, screaming and simply enjoying being young!

Then there’s the old cotton pen featured each month as the photo with my column’s header.

Close to 100 years old, that little building, not much bigger than a child’s playhouse, was where the cotton from these fields was stored until there was enough to take to the gin.

There is a HUGE oak tree hanging over its tin roof and that little building is what memories are made of. My Daddy, Paul Lowry, and his first cousin, Lucille Lowry Phillips, met underneath that sprawling tree every afternoon after high school to discuss their various even-then-teenage problems and the current loves in their lives.

Both Daddy and Lucille have been gone several years now ... but that little building and its sprawling oak tree remain.

There’s an even tinier old building on my farm, but it’s not in good repair. In reality, it is just about two logs high all the way around with the roof almost sitting on the ground.

But that little log cabin was built by my grandfather, Harly Lowry, and my brother, Bobby, about 65 years ago. In my younger years, I can remember finding my brother’s stash of comic books and even a vintage cap pistol well-hidden inside. Who knows what adventures that tiny cabin saw?

Steve and Karen Stewart are pictured with their grandchildren.

 

Karen (Moody) Stewart has some of the same feelings about an old corncrib resting in a pasture on the family farm she and her husband, Dr. Steve Stewart, are revamping to form their retirement home.

The old corncrib was built well over 100 years ago by Steve’s grandfather, Newt Stephen Stewart (1885-1946).

Newt was well-known in the Murphree Valley area of Blount County as a farmer and horse and mule trader.

Newt and his wife, Clara Jones Stewart, were the parents of Trenton (Steve’s dad), as well as Amos and Lois.

Amos and Trenton went into the cattle business after their father’s death and began a dairy on the farm around 1952. Trenton bought out Amos about 7-8 years later and operated the dairy for more than 30 years. He and his wife, Marjorie, had children: Steve, Tim, Cindy and Jan, now well-known in their own fields, and their young family received many honors from numerous state and local farm groups through the years.

"Our boys have mentioned moving the corncrib and fixing it up, but Steve thinks it might fall apart if it’s moved," Karen said. "I love to see it when I drive up there because it means I’m nearly home."

Karen has other old buildings that share her love.

"My Granny Moody’s house (now just inside the Oneonta city limits and along Highway 132 where airplanes used to land in a nearby pasture in flying’s early years!) is over 100 years old," Karen explained.

"The barn is not as old as the house but I am sure it’s at least 70 years old. I love that old barn because my cousins and I used to climb the ladder to play in the hay loft. I still remember getting stung by a red wasp as I was climbing up.

"My brother Lynn refurbished it a couple of years ago. David, his son, and Rachel were married in front of it. So many happy memories."

Memories ARE what the smell of old wood and the beauty of these old buildings bring forth.

 

This is a painting of the old cotton pen done by a young Jannea and framed by boards from the back of the actual little building.

Hanging in my home’s living room is a painting bringing forth multiple memories.

My youngest daughter, Jannea Geno Campbell, once painted a large photo of the old cotton pen. My dad took some of the boards from the back of the cotton pen and made a rustic frame to encircle that masterpiece. It’s now one of my most prized possessions!

So look around your farms, your homesteads, even your houses in town. If there’s an older building, take the time to remember what it was used for and what memories it evokes. And SHARE those memories with the younger folks in your family or community.

And if you need me, I’ll be that gray-haired homesteader down by the barn, happily smelling some freshly cut sawdust as I embark on yet another project that will hopefully be somebody’s memory of our history.

 

Suzy Lowry Geno is a Blount County freelance writer who can be reached through Facebook, Old Field Farm General Store, or her website, www.taitsgapstore.com.