Thanks to my father-in-law a copy of the magazine “Farm & Ranch Living” arrives at our home every other month. The stories inside all relate to farm living, and often barns are a theme.
I especially like the barn stories because while did not grow up on a farm, I spent a lot of time in a barn.
When I was in the fifth grade my parents moved us to a new home on Pleasant Street in Hillsboro. It was just about four blocks from the center of town, but there were barns behind the homes on both sides of us. On one side there were several faded red barns, but on the other side there was a big, white, two-story barn not dissimilar to many I see in the magazine.
That’s where I spent a lot of time.
Not long after we moved to Pleasant Street some of the neighbor kids informed a brother and I that there was a basketball court in the upper level of the big, white barn. Since basketball was my favorite sport at the time, and playing sports was about all I did in my free time, it was no more than a matter of minutes before we were climbing up to the barn’s second floor to check the court out.
It apparently had been several years since the court had been used. The floor was covered in a layer of bat and pigeon droppings and the rim on the worn backboard was a bit crooked. But it doesn’t take an few energetic kids long to remedy those issues and next thing the neighborhood knew the rythmic sound of basketball bouncing off that old wood floor was commonplace.
When we swept the dust and droppings off the old floor, we discovered a faded free-throw lane that must have been left by kids from a generation before us. We gave it a new paint job, added a mid-court circle just for the fun of it, and soon thereafter replaced the single lightbulb in the middle of the ceiling.
Most of the barn stories I read in “Farm & Ranch Living” are about kids playing in the hay mows, working with animals and such. So I was surprised when I opened the February/March issue and found a picture of a couple boys in an old barn – standing beneath a backboard and rim very much like the one we had, with a free throw area painted beneath their feet.
Many of the stories I read in the magazine conjure up memories of days gone by, but none quite like the story with the barn basketball court did.
As I read through the article it talked about kids playing on a plastic goals in the house before they put a hoop in their barn, and how the whole house would shake as they bounced off the walls. We had plastic hoops inside, too, and my Dad sometimes tells stories about watching plaster dust from the first floor ceiling float to the ground as we banged around our house, too.
As I read some more, the magazine story talked about a kid driving toward the basketball in the barn, launching himself off a wall beam, and throwing down a dunk. That was a specialty in our barn, too.
It seems odd, at least now, that I refer to it as “our” barn, because it wasn’t our’s at all. It seemed like it though, because we ruled the roost, and for several years the kindly neighbors never said a word about us coming and going day after day, or even at night. We used it as a basketball court, a refuge from the cold and rain, a campsite, a fort, and a hiding place.
The barn was old when moved there though, and as we grew and second story floor became more worn, the neighbors finally decided it was not safe to play basketball there anymore. We didn’t like that much, but they were right, because we’d patched plenty of holes and cracked boards in the old floor. Usually that happened after we watched someone’s leg disappear down an old hole or a new one they’d just created.
We had plenty of other basketball courts in the neighborhood, but none of them was quite like the barn.
So everyone once in a while, when I’d see the neighbors pile into their car and drive away, I could not resist the temptation. I’d grab a basketball, slip into the barn and climb to the second floor, and take as many shots as I thought I could get away with.
The old barn was dismantled several years ago, long after my parents moved to a new home. But if it was still there, and I lived nearby, you can be sure I’d slip inside now and then if for no other reason than to breath in the smell and remember a different time – with a basketball tucked under my arm.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.
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