Our barn was a building of joy, work, games and nostalgia. The old barn fills me with many memories — from the animals in the basement to fun with my brother Paul in the haymow.
The Barn is Lost
On November 20, 1994 the barn burned from the spontaneous combustion of damp corn stover (stalks) that had been blown into the loft for use as winter bedding. The building erupted in smoke and flames during lunchtime, and the farm's new owner, Dave Topp, and his hired man saved the livestock by quickly releasing the cattle and chasing them from the basement. The volunteer fire department was unable to save the huge wooden structure with its loft full of tinder dry hay.
When Dave called, I was shocked. It took a few minutes for the loss to register. It was a brief conversation regarding the safety of humans and livestock and how Dave would cope with the crisis; dairy cows must be milked twice daily, the Minnesota winter was coming and the buildings were gone.
Circa 1958: the 18' addition results in the air ventilator being off-center.
It was after hanging up that the memories flooded in. This was the building where many of the dreams of my childhood and youth occurred. Can you imagine if every copy of Aesop's Fables were burned and never again could you show a beloved grandchild where you learned the nature of animals, where some of life's lessons were gained and character built?
The barn was the last of the farm's original buildings and now it too was gone. Visible history was gone. No longer would I look with anticipation to this landmark as I topped the distant hill from roads approaching the farm. There was no goodbye, only the memory of a tragic, sudden and violent death. It's been ten years but when I drive past Longfurrow Farm, which is not often, I look sadly at the vacant space where the barn once stood. I occasionally have memories of the barn like a person, now gone, who had a deep impact on my life.
My great great-grandfather Halvor Olson (1746-1795) lived at Flaa in the Hallingdal Valley of Norway. His son, my great-grandfather Halvor used the surname Gaptjern, Halvorson, Quie and Kvi at different times and it was he who immigrated with his family that included a son, my grandfather, also named Halvor to Wisconsin in 1845. It seems the family was hooked on the name "Halvor!"
Grandfather Halvor was then eleven and learned English by working on a "Yankee" farm. In 1855 Halvor, now 22, and his parents came to Dennison and purchased adjoining quarter sections (160 acres). This was at the very beginning of settlement in the Dennison area and Native Americans lived nearby. The Halvors, father and son, lived and farmed together and in this period had to haul the wheat harvest with horse and wagon to distant Hastings on the Mississippi River. Later Grandfather Halvor acquired land from his father and at the end of the 19th century, Longfurrow Farm had 240 acres.