Every year at this time, Dad grabs a few of us and we head down the hill to Fred's and and grab a 100 bales.
As we pull in, Fred comes out and lends a hand. In his late 70s, he climbs the rafters quickly and tosses bales with ease. Fred's barn was built in the late 19th century. He feels that there is a nicer one farther down the valley. "It has straighter beams and has held up better over the years." He keeps count as we toss bales to the trailer below.
When I ride, I pass old farmsteads and hay barns like Fred's. Most are more than a century old. Built by hand, the their beams are worn smooth from decades of use.
As a child these barns hosted endless games of hide-and-go-seek, supplied a refuge from the prying eyes of parents, and offered the occasional stolen kiss. The air in the barn is sweet and smells like late August. And as I climb the ladder to the hayloft, the worries of my week pass. I am a kid again.