Growing up on Muddy Creek
(Page 2 of 3)
Dad had Curley Collier fitting the cattle for the show circuit in the east wing of the barn. About 15 animals were tied out there, bedded down with straw.
My first thought was of Old Bess, my favorite cow, and without thinking, I ran to the barn and untied her and led her far back into the pasture field, toward the Vanatta place, and tied her again to a fence post.
I then came back with Aunt Esther and watched the fire. The rain fell in torrents. Mother rang the party line five rings, and all down the line people were alerted to the fire and came running.
George Griggs and his boys, John Fierheiley, Lloyd Pepple, George Lewis and Dale, the Bridgett boys and a bunch from Tom Town. They got there too late, though, and could do nothing except watch that the fire didn't spread to the shop building or the new hen house.
There had been a painted sign on the wall of the barn that said, 'Walnut Ridge Farm, Visitors Welcome,' in big, block letters. I recall watching those letters open up as the boards burned, and then disappear. It was only a few moments until the roof fell in on top of the hay.
Fortunately, the fact that the mow was filled with hay acted as a deterrent and delayed the burning of the lower part of the barn. There was no way it could be saved, even if there had been a fire department, and of course, there were none in those days.
The men were able to get all the cattle out of the barn as well as the show box with its halters and gear.
However, most of the harness for the horses went up in flames, as did two tons of cotton seed meal that Dad had just got in.
After the fire, he spread that meal over the garden, thinking it might enrich the soil. But the opposite happened; nothing would grow on that space, not even weeds, for years. Ten or so bags of Red Top seed that had just been hulled also were lost. The new cow blankets that Dad had just purchased were being used to cover the new cement, and so were not in the barn when it burned.
The new patented stanchions where the cows were milked did go up in smoke, as did a manure spreader that Curley had been filling when the lightning hit.
The two 30-foot-tall redwood silos that were at the east end of the wing where the show cattle were tied acted like a flue and flames shot out of them 20 feet high even though there was no silage in them to burn.