The stories that barn could tell
“Have you always wanted to write a book?”
That’s been a popular question ever since Nicole and I started writing Sheltering Generations—The American Barn, or the “barn book” as we often called it, sometimes with a tone of admiration and other times with a hint of exhaustion.
“No. Not really.”
My answer surprises people. A book was never on my bucket list, but as I started to hear these stories, I knew they had to be told.
Every barn has these slices of time that mean something to the people who spend so much of their lives in them, but it’s sharing those moments with the rest of the world that gives them a voice.
So I hid away from a lively houseful of kids one Saturday morning and chatted with Tommy Maples of Elkmont, Alabama.
“It’s been a blessing to have [my kids] on the farm because they had to work,” he said. “Ben would get up early in the morning and go feed Clarence every morning before school. In the winter, I’d mix his bottle, I’d hand it to him and he’d go down to the barn.”
As Tommy retold the story, I could almost smell the milk replacer. It brought me back to my early mornings when I was 10. My sister and I pulled on our coveralls and trudged through the snow to our big red barn to feed our own eager bucket calves.
But that wasn’t the only conversation to make me smile as I made new friends across the country.
One April afternoon, I got Rayford Pullen by phone on my first try and he said I could interview him on the spot. I didn’t have any formal questions lined out yet, but soon found out there was no need. He made me laugh for most of the hour we talked. I figure he must have that effect on a lot of people.
I asked about the barn and he answered, “You probably don’t want to put this in print, but…it’s a party barn.”
You’d better believe that’s near the front of the story.
I laughed as I saw bits of my family reflected in their stories from Montana to Pennsylvania, from Minnesota to California. I often hung up and thought. “Those are just some of the very best people.”
Some simple observations were profound enough to catch my breath.
“It’s my favorite place. I always know it’s home. I’m safe there,” said Jennifer Carrico, of Redfield, Iowa. When tough stuff gets thrown your way—impossible situations you can’t change—the reprieve of the barn can be life giving.
During the writing process, all the regular work of my division continued and my busy personal life marched on in unexpected ways (major flooding x 2, a remodel to complete, etc.), so many of these stories were filed after midnight. A worried colleague suggested, “Maybe we should hire a freelancer to help?”
But Nicole and I both agreed that we had to finish what we’d started. Just one or two stories in, and it was a passion project.
Just like these people featured in its pages and this thing they’re doing—raising livestock and kids and supplying our brand—it’s something they were called to do.
It’s a story that has to be told.
May your bottom line be filled with black ink,
PS—The book’s mission helped add energy to the project, as 100% of book sales will got to the Certified Angus Beef Rural Relief Fund, allowing us to offer support to communities when Mother Nature throws a curveball.
About the author: Miranda Reiman
I love this life. Things that top my list? God, my family, rural life, agriculture and working for the brand. I’m officially the director of producer communications, which basically means I get to learn from lots of smart people and pass that information along to other smart people: YOU. I’m fortunate to work with producers and others in the beef community from my Nebraska-based home office here in the heart of cattle country. (One other delicious job perk? Any time we meet, there’s sure to be good beef involved.)