Each chapter of Coop features a photograph taken by my friends John and Julie. This is the photo at the head of Chapter Two. These are the wooden silos that stood attached to my father’s barn since the day it was constructed. They were marvelously done, made of many laminated strips of wood nailed together with thousands of hammer blows. I remember shoveling silage early mornings before deer hunting and seeing the fuzzy buttons of frost on each nail head. Dad only used the silos a couple of years. Mostly they stood empty, and we used to scare ourselves by climbing them and looking down. They seemed even taller than they were because each one had a five- or six-foot concrete-lined pit dug in it at the base. Up at the very top there was a platform and railing covered in pigeon poop. The roof was very low and if we crawled around up there during the day we’d hear the gritch-gritch of disturbed bats, which made us duck even lower and not want to put our fingers anywhere we couldn’t check first. The gallery of snapshots below illustrates some of those details.
In the spring (much the same time as when the chapter heading photo was taken) I used to nestle with my back to the concrete in the space where the two silos curved together. It was out of the wind, and I could feel the sun. I wrote about this nook on page 162 of Coop. There was another deeper nook on the other side of the silo that used to grow up with brush and my brother John and I would hide in there with our bows and arrows to ambush grackles when they came to steal from the corn crib. Mom planted asparagus around the barnyard side of the silo decades ago, and it still pops up there every year.
The silos are gone now. Dad had them taken down last year. I wished he wouldn’t, and even made some contact with some barn restoration and vintage lumber folks, but in the end it just didn’t work out. Salvaging an old wooden silo is something everyone always says “you should do”, and when you get right down to it, you find out why it so rarely happens. Time and finance. Meanwhile, Dad had done the numbers on how much it cost him to have the silo roof rebuilt (it was beginning to fold) and re-shingled, and with the year’s planting to be done and the roofers coming, opted instead to have my brother over with his track-hoe, and now the silos and all those nails and that concrete are buried deep for some other millennial generation to discover. I am a sentimentalist and a preservationist, but I am slowly finding ways to appreciate the practicality of old farmer moves like this. Writing about it in the next book. In some ways, they are on to something about freedom.
Studying these photos while posting, I have only just now noticed that the black and white silo image is reversed, and that it is also reversed in the book. Does that qualify as an “OOPS”? It wouldn’t be the first time. The cover image on the hardcover version of Truck is also reversed.
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