Growing up on Muddy Creek: When the Barn Burned Down

The hay crop was lost, the barn burned down but prize cows were saved.


| February 2002



A depiction of the destruction caused by a hay fire in 1920.

A depiction of the destruction caused by a hay fire in 1920.

It was in August 1920, one of those hot, humid, lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer. The sweet clover had been cut and windrowed with the side delivery rake so the hay loader could pick up the windrows and pass the hay up the reels onto the wagon, where two men had all they could do to level the load so it would ride to the barn.

The wagon had been pulled with the Titan tractor, partly because its speed could be regulated so as not to cover the men up when the hay was heavy.

At the barn, the hay fork (hooked to a 200-ft. roll of 1-inch rope and hitched to a team of mules) had lifted the hay up to the track and then yanked it into the barn, where it was released by pulling the trip rope. At least two men had the sweaty and dirty job of moving back the sweet-smelling hay to fill every cranny and space. Dad was so proud of having the barn filled without the hay ever getting rained on.

In between the haying, Dad had the men mixing cement and laying a new 7-ft. cement drive from the yard into the barn yard. They would mix the concrete by hand in mud boats, about two wheelbarrow loads at a time. That was the way most everyone mixed cement before the advent of mechanical mixers.

Each day, the men would lay about 12 feet, putting a piece of rubber belting from the oil field in each section as an expansion joint. It worked, for even at this late date, nearly 70 years later, that drive is solid, with few cracks except for one place.

On that fateful day in 1920, though, they had mixed enough cement to lay the usual section when suddenly the clouds began to roll in and the distant thunder could be heard. Dad, John Bellinger and Ralph Weaver, who had been doing the work, quickly got some cow blankets from the barn and laid them over the new cement, supporting them with fishing and bean poles.