Editor’s Note – This is the sixth in a series of stories authored by Robert Kroeger, who has painted 11 barns in Highland County and has plans to paint more. The first 11 paintings, usually framed with actual wood from the barn pictured, will be auctioned off April 2 when the Highland County Extension Support Committee holds its annual dinner fundraiser at the fairgrounds. Proceeds from five of the paintings will benefit the committee. Kroeger titled this story “Fairley’s Springhouse.”
Some barns, unfortunately, aren’t that photogenic and don’t beg to be painted. But this one was different. Its steeply angled roof, the add-on building in the rear, and the three-column front bay, appealed to the artist in me.
It was not your ordinary barn design; the builder showed creativity. The next challenge was to figure out which angle would make the best painting. So, after I took photos in a few places and still wasn’t satisfied, I walked back past a fence and climbed on top of something for another view. Suddenly, an attractive shadow appeared, thrown from the fence. The steep roof seemed more prominent, and a John Deere tractor peeked through in the background, darkened by a shadow from trees. I liked that angle. And I also enjoyed framing the painting in its own wood that Alice Teeters provided.
Teeters told us that Charles Fairley, her grandfather, bought the barn in the early 1900s and raised sheep and dairy cows, using horses to work the farm. It was a busy one. During cold Ohio winters, the barn housed hundreds of ewes as they prepared for lambing in the spring. Teeters’ family milked a small herd of Jerseys by hand in a milking parlor, taking the milk in cans to stay cool in the spring house. That old springhouse would make a good painting. In the early days, it supplied water for the horses, pumping it through underground pipes – pretty sophisticated for a century ago.
The barn must have been quite a place in former years. Big nails for hanging tack and kerosene lanterns can still be seen near stalls that housed the work horses. And, of course, let’s not forget about the hay to feed the animals. Growing it isn’t difficult; harvesting it is a different matter. Teeters said that the entire family, and a few hired hands, would fill the giant haymow, every square inch of it, with either straw or hay bales. What a hot job on a summer day. But such was farm life – not always easy.
Like many others in the county, the barn has passed on to the next generation. Alice’s son Travis now owns the 230-acre farm and also teaches physical education in the high school.
When I looked inside the barn, I noticed hand-hewn timbers, one a 40-footer, making me think this barn was built in the mid to late 1800s. And it was constructed well enough to survive and still be functional 150 years later. Long may it survive.
For more information visit www.barnart.weebly.com.
Robert Kroeger is a former Cincinnati area dentist who has since ran in and organized marathons, took up the painting skills he first picked up from his commercial artist father, become a published author, and is a certified personal trainer that started the LifeNuts vitality program.