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The Lonely Barn

Written for the Children's Day at the Cannon Free Library

Once upon a time, a long time ago there was a dairy farm, deep in a valley in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains. The farm used to have cows, lowing in their stalls, eating hay and turnips and gigantic beets called mangel würtzels, from their mangers. Hay filled the mows, cut in both early and late summer and fed all winter long. The hay wasn't packed in neat square bales, the way we see hay packed today, but loose, brought in on big wagons drawn by teams of horses. A huge pair of pinchers lifted the hay from the wagon and, on a long trolley attached to the roof moved it across the ceiling and dropped it into the mow.

The barn was home to some little cats who sometimes had kittens who drank some of the warm milk the farmer put into a bowl for them when he had finished milking.

The farmer's name was Mr. Koenig. He loved his cows so much. He never let anyone into his barn because he didn't want them to disturb his cows. He always spoke to them in German and, it has been told, but as I didn't hear him myself, I'm not really sure, but, it has been said, he'd talk to his cows and tell them about the cows he knew in Germany when he was a little boy.

As time went on, Mr. Koenig sold his farm to Mr. Firment who had worked in Ohio in a steel mill. Mr. Firment dreamed all of his life of having a farm and milking cows. He was very happy to have the great old barn and cows to milk. But, his wife didn't like the country. The sky was too vast. And the quiet too deep. So, one day Mr. Firment sold his cows and moved to the village.

The great old barn was sad. It was empty and quiet. No more great loads of hay to fill the mow. No more mice scurrying across the rafters whispering to each other. No more cows lowing in their mangers. No more calves to kick their heels in the air. Too much silence. The sky was too vast. The silence too deep.

One day a lady came to see Mr. Firment. "I'd like to buy your house", she said. "Oh, and

I guess the barn comes with it". "What will you do with it", he asked. "Oh, I'll live in the house", she said. The barn was sad. She didn't say anything, anything about having any cows to live in.

One day, a neighbor came to see the lady. "You have a great old barn", he said. "Would you like to raise some sheep in it with me", he asked. The lady thought and thought. "I don't know anything about sheep" she thought. The great old barn became very still in order to listen to the two people as they talked. "Maybe, maybe," said the barn to itself, if barns could talk to themselves .

One morning, a truck pulled into the barnyard. The door opened and out came nine sheep. "This is your new home," the lady said to the sheep. "What are these creatures," thought the barn. "They don't look like cows. Maybe they are fluffy calves." The barn sighed with relief. "At least it is somebody. Nine somebodies."

Every day the lady sat in the barn for a while with the sheep. And every day the barn heard her talk to them. It wasn't the German of Mr. Koenig. And it wasn't the Ohio of Mr. Firment. But it was somebody talking. Slowly the barn got used to her voice, and the baa of the sheep began to sound as sweet as the low of the cows.

When the winter came, the sheep began to have lambs. And soon there were more sheep. The lady visited the barn many times in the day and sometimes in the night. One day the lady brought two orange kittens, Prentice and Prescott, into the barn. "Oh, how nice," thought the barn. "Sheep love cats and cats love sheep. And kittens love lambs and lambs love kittens. I know why cats and kittens love sheep," thought the barn. "They are cozy and warm to sleep next to. But I don't know why sheep love cats and kittens so much. But I have seen them rub their noses along the back of a kitten from the tip of their nose to the end of their tails, so many times."

The barn began to feel happy and useful once more. Then one day another truck pulled into the barnyard. This one was longer and bigger and noisier than the little one that came with the sheep. The back door opened with a loud clang. And out came a big tan Jersey cow, Lady Francesca Cavendish. "This is your new home," said the lady to the big tan Jersey cow. The great barn sighed with joy.

"Sheep, lambs, cats, kittens and a cow. I shall never be lonely again."

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