Kids, Barns, & Ol' Memories

Kids, Barns, & Ol' Memories

Titus Gilliam

When working with reclaimed lumber the memories and stories often flood our conscience. The history of the wood sometimes is what makes it stand apart from any other wood source. Pieces crafted from antique boards so often have more meaning to the artisan making the piece or the customer if they know a little bit of trivia on the source of the material.

One of our first barns that we took down has a rather ironic chain of intertwined memories for me. I grew up in a large family in a rural area in Northern Idaho. This area is known for a mix of agriculture, logging, and the world capital for steelhead fishing. My grade school had one room for all six grades (and is still operating like this today). The school grounds were nestled into a patch of timber surrounded by rolling farm fields. We had a long hour and a half bus drive getting up to school. Usually in the winter it was snowy, and we left before light and got home after dark. I won’t tell you about walking up hill both ways in a snow storm, but I can guarantee you that there were some adventures different than what the “city kids” came across. My teacher was Mrs. Fry, and my class every once in a while changed by 50% by going from two to three students. Mrs. Fry had been around plenty long, had a tender heart, but didn’t take any guff off of anybody. Her goal to retirement was to see my little brother’s class of 6 students (huge class) out of the school. I can still picture her: wavy white hair cut neat at the collar, fairly round, and the only variation in outfit was color of blouse and calf length skirt. I never saw her look different including at her home ten years later. This uniform simplified decisions for her on what to wear in the morning.

Mrs. Fry’s sweetheart of a lot of years was Mr. Fry. Mr. Fry was always a good sport at school picnics and Christmas shows; Mrs. Fry probably marshaled him into these events. He even sold my family a kid’s horse which was coincidently named the same, Mr. Fry. Mr. Fry lived in the community his whole life ranching and logging. Instead of riding a bus to school he rode a horse.

This barn that we took down was located on Johnson Road near Bedrock Canyon. One time when I visited Mr. Fry after we took the barn down he told me some history on that barn. It was originally built down in the canyon; then he helped disassemble and pack it out on horses. Therefor this barn has been double recycled!

One of my older brother’s high school jobs was working for the farmer that worked the land around this barn. When we went to take down the barn there were multiple stacks of aluminum roofing metal inside. My brother told me that one summer they bought that metal but never got around to installing it. The barn sat with a deteriorating roof and open studs with no siding exposed to the elements for another twenty years until we took it down. These studs were some of the nicest 2x6s we ever had. They were made from old growth, tight grain fir and not too weathered, just the right kind of clean silver color that our customer’s love. If my brother had ended up siding that barn with the tin we would not have ended up with the beautiful grey boards. Occasionally we get orders for a full original rough texture where the customer wants no sanding or machining done to their door. This Johnson Road Barn’s perfect reclaimed grey studs ended up in doors in a tech company in California, a cabin in Colorado, and a new home for an outfitter in Kansas. This outfitter has a rather charmed life. Besides hunting for a living and other forms of full time recreation (and getting paid to do it) he has a new reality show on GAC. Just think if Mr. Fry 70 years ago packing those boards out of a steep canyon wall, would have known they were going to travel the country and end up on TV!

Also working on this barn, I had a little twisted memory to be careful. When my brother was working on a combine here he got his hand caught in the rotating headrig which made it a mangled mess for a while. If he wasn’t such a big, strong guy to be able to pull free, who knows what would have happened. Then I had my own version of a close encounter hauling the boards back south across Idaho. It was winter and the boards had sat out in the weather in the bundles getting soaked and heavier. My gooseneck trailer was stacked tall like the Clampetts coming to town. I had to make a burger stop in a small town along the way. That gave the local sheriff deputy time to notice me, and he felt obliged to call in the scale cop. Fortunately the scale cop took pitty on me being naïve to the laws of proper vehicle licensing. He was very kind to sell me a temporary license for $150 to get me the couple hours further down the road rather than fine me the $2500 that he could have. I nearly kissed him, but I didn’t have time because I had to boogy out of town before the deputy felt like coming back to make sure the rest of things were kosher. This gave me a chance to learn the finer details of the law. Now I have my paperwork in order, but I still don’t enjoy hauling heavy loads up and down the mountains and across the rivers in Idaho.

In the picture you can see the next generation in training for working at Reclaimed Lumber Products.