Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The death of a barn June 3, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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I’VE VIEWED PLENTY of time-worn, dilapidated barns in my travels through rural regions.

Barn near Delhi along CR 6

But never have I spotted one quite like this mammoth barn along Redwood County Road 6 south of Delhi. For those of you unfamiliar with Delhi, a community of some 70 residents in southwestern Minnesota, the name is pronounced Dell-hi. Not (New) Delly, as in the capital city of India.

The state of this barn struck me for its final fortitude, its seeming determination to hang on even with bones exposed, its very soul ripped away.

One can only imagine the previous condition of this barn, the proud farmer who walked through her doors, the cows, and perhaps swine, once housed inside.

Now, instead, a black hole marks a side doorway, a front doorway is barricaded by wood, the hay mow door hangs like a loose tooth.

Heaps of hay still remain, heaved there years ago by some hardworking farmer.

I am always saddened by this decay of an agrarian structure.

What stories does this building hold? Who labored here? What brought about this barn’s demise, marked now by a grain truck gravestone?

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


28 Responses to “The death of a barn”

  1. It looks so sturdy at the base – too bad…

  2. Bryn Marlow Says:

    My dad was a lad when he and my grandpa built the barn that still stands on the old home place up north in Itasca County. The demise of barns is for me a very visual symbol of cultural change—once such an important part of farm life, such a symbol of pride (many men took more pride in the appearance of their barn than their home), such a hub of activity, the barn no longer breathes, no longer cradles life, has been passed by by a culture that has shifted focus, technology, goals, ways of life. Barns are expensive to keep up. As a newlywed, I lived on a place with two post-and-beam barns, hand-hewn logs, wooden pegs holding them together. We had no money to fix them and this bothered me to no end. We took out insurance on the better one and I was happy, so happy when a storm damaged the roof and Farmer’s Insurance paid for a new metal roof. Where I live now, we’ve put in cables across the mow to pull the sides of our 1940s-era barn back in from bowing out. I wish I had a kajillion dollars to go ’round the countryside funding repair and recovery of old barns. Our heritage slips away before our eyes. Thank you for showing us this part of ourselves.

    • You summarize so well, and quite poetically, I might add, the life of a barn. Thanks for your efforts to upkeep the barn on your place. And, yes, it is cost which likely keeps many of these farmers from affording to maintain their barns.

  3. Beth Ann Says:

    These pictures always make me a bit sad—I think about how it got to that point that those in charge could no longer take care of it and had to just let it go. I have seen a lot of barns like this in Ohio, also, so they seem to be everywhere.

  4. Funny the door to the hay loft brings back a flood of childhood memories. Such a sad demise to a beautiful old building.

  5. cecilia Says:

    so sad, those old wooden structures really do need care.. c

  6. My Grandpa would have loved to have the wood and the cement blocks to reuse. He probably would have kept the nails too. There is a lot of materials on that barn that could be reused. He was that kind of guy and so is my dad. Hard to see a barn go to waste. Thanks so much for sharing – love the wording of your post too 🙂 Happy Day!

    • Thanks, Renee. Your grandpa and dad had it so right to reuse. There are businesses out there that specialize in harvesting the reusable portions of old barns and then repurposing. I bet there are portions of this one which could be saved.

  7. Ken Wedding Says:

    So, Audrey, do you know the origin of the name of Delhi, MN, where one of my high school friends lived?

  8. It is heartbreaking! I remember having torn down the greenhouse at my great grandparents place. I wish I would have taken a picture of at least, “Brink’s Greenhouse”.

  9. I love this photo! Could it have been a tornado that so tore it I wonder? Very neat.

  10. Jackie Says:

    One of the saddest things for me is to see these “original” old barns fall, mostly because I know they wont be replaced…the new barn is nothing like the old. Rick and I went on a road trip today and a few that were falling in and tipping over, not a good sight :/

  11. ryanware Says:

    We used to fish up around Delhi on the Minnesota River. That barn is surreal looking. Sad to see it go.

  12. hotlyspiced Says:

    It looks like that in its day, this barn would have been a beautiful, majestic building. What a shame it’s been left to go to ruin. I’d love to see it restored xx

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