The Traveling Barn Door Finds a Home

Growing up on the Spry farmstead before the age of electronic entertainment, my siblings and I played a lot of ball in the yard. There was (and still is) a glacial erratic in the middle of the yard the top of which was exposed through the grass. This patch of rock made a perfect, permanent home plate. First base was a Norway pine sapling we planted when we first moved to the farm. Mom’s long-suffering snowball bush (a high-bush cranberry) served as second base, as well as a sideline marker for football games. Third base was usually a flattened cardboard box.

Our makeshift field was the setting for acting out our baseball fantasies, imagining we were in a major league park. We even had our own version of the Green Monster, the south side of the old barn, which officially measured 217 ft from home plate in left center. I painted that number on the barn in white paint, with large numbers and a smaller “ft”, just like the outfield fences in Met Stadium.

The barn hadn’t been used for its original purpose, milking cows, for decades. Inside, a few rusted stanchions hung from the beams. In the hay loft, several rotting horse collars were perched in the crooks of the rafters. For the first few years after we moved to the farm, Dad raised feeder pigs in the barn. My after-school chores included “slopping the hogs”. After the pigs were gone, the barn sat empty again.

When my siblings and I returned to the farm on annual summer visits as young adults, we noticed the old barn was nearing its end. Each year, the sides of the ground floor leaned further north, as the classic barn roof with its aluminum cupola, still stately but sagging a bit in the middle, slowly sank to the earth.

On one summer visit some 20 years ago, Mel and I learned the Callaway Volunteer Fire Department was scheduled to use the barn for practice. We salvaged two doors from the barn, the main door from the front and a side door near the silo. We were visiting from our home in Montana at the time and hauled the doors all the way back on the roof of our Jeep Cherokee. We had no idea what we were going to do with them, but we thought they were cool and reminded us of home.

The larger door. The nicks and gouges in the middle are from the steel fencepost we used to prop the door shut on the barn.

The larger door. The nicks and gouges in the middle are from the steel fencepost we used to prop the door shut on the barn.

From Montana, the doors moved with us to Idaho, from there to New Mexico, and finally back to Minnesota when we bought our cabin on 5th Crow Wing Lake. We used the smaller door as a headboard for a while and the larger one to display antique fishing lures but mostly they stayed in the garage and collected dust. Although we spent thousands of dollars renovating and redecorating every house we owned, we never permanently installed the doors in any house. We knew we’d be moving on at some point and didn’t want to leave them behind.

When we started designing our house last winter, we spent a lot of time looking at the Houzz website (or what we call house porn), for ideas. We learned about the latest decorating craze: barn doors. These are doors that slide along a track and look old, for which you can find hardware on at least a dozen sites on-line. You can even order doors made from reclaimed wood. Designers have learned what we have known for years: old barn doors are cool.

Finally, we had a perfect opportunity to incorporate the doors into our “forever” home. There was one problem: neither door was large enough to cover a standard opening for an interior door. So I bought some pine boards and built a frame that incorporates the large door and is big enough to cover the door opening. The barn door was lop-sided, missing parts and no longer square but I made no attempt to fix any of that. I took the old door apart and inserted some old galvanized steel Mel had salvaged from her grandpa’s farm.

The completed project.

The completed project.

The back side of the frame.

The back side of the frame.

Hardware installed.

Hardware installed.

The finished project awaits installation between my office and the master bedroom after interior work is completed on the new house. We’re still not sure how to use the other barn door, which is smaller yet. It will stay in the garage, collecting dust until inspiration strikes again.

One thought on “The Traveling Barn Door Finds a Home

  1. What a great idea. I love that you salvaged these doors and hauled them around the country. That shows just how much you value them.

    Your ball playing experiences reminded me of my growing up years and my older brother always wanting to be Harmon Killebrew. As the eldest, he got his way.


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