Barn swallows & my hero

By Marion Tucker-Honeycutt | Jul 11, 2018

I stopped by the farm of a friend a few weeks ago and got a nostalgic dose of barn swallows that make their home in their wonderful old barn built in the mid-1800s, constructed with hand-squared beams fastened together with heavy wooden pegs.

It is very like the barn we kids, my big brother Larry and I, had so enjoyed up on the Tucker Ridge farm built by my great-grandfather, Samuel Tucker, in 1846.

Then, as I stood there, like in my childhood days, in swooped barn swallows with their friendly "chip-chip-chip-ing.” Up to their rafter-nests they flew to be greeted by a raucous chorus of almost grown-up offspring.

I loved the barn up on the farm in summer time with its resident swallows. They were so distinctly different from the other birds, with their scissor tails, their swoop-scoop flight, their chipping call and their nests mud-plastered to the barn rafters instead of twig-anchored in trees. With their nests wide open to easy view, we could watch the progress from the mewing little hatchlings that soon grew large enough to stick their heads up, stretched on scrawny, wobbly little necks over the rim of the nest, looking like a many-headed little creature, all mouths and cheeps.

My brother and I grew up on the farm and rafter climbing in the barn was a favorite sport for us. It was also against Grampa Roy's explicit orders. It was dangerous and could result in broken bones, even of the neck variety, and Grampa was very right.

But you only recognize that reality after you experience the broken bones or you've grown up and had children of your own whom you try to convince of the same dangers.

I was never an overly risk-taking kid but if my brother Larry did something, it must be pretty safe, especially if he were there to protect me. So we did a lot of rafter climbing. I can't remember any other thing that we ever did in direct contradiction to Grampa's rules. We were fortunate, indeed, that we never did get hurt.

Ronnie Lyons, on a farm about a mile down Tucker Ridge from our farm, once fell from a rafter in his barn and broke his leg. I remember visiting him then and being a little awestruck at the reality of broken bones like Grampa had warned us about. Still, accidents happen to other people, right? So Larry and I kept climbing.

We were scrambling around in the rafters one sunny day when Grampa Roy suddenly appeared in the barn door. The door was one of those big doors that roll open on rollers in a track above. It leaves a large opening but it seemed that Grampa filled it with his authoritative figure. There I was, on a rafter directly in his line of vision. Nowhere to hide. But worse still, unbeknownst to Grampa, Larry stood on a rafter directly over his head, stood very, very quietly.

All sorts of emotions started running into each other as I assessed the situation. I was caught. Grampa was upset. Was he disappointed in my disobedience? Would he see Larry?

Almost automatically I set about to keep him from also discovering Larry. I couldn't do anything now to save myself from whatever scolding I was for sure in for, but maybe I could keep him from seeing Larry, thereby saving him from punishment and Grampa from double disappointment.

So I got real busy talking to Grampa as I kept him busy guiding my descent from the rafter. Then I ran to Grampa and listening real intently to my scolding, I took Grampa's hand and all but dragged him out of the barn. Grampa never ever knew about Larry up on the beams. That made me feel real good. I'd never had a chance before of protecting Larry. He was always the protector. It felt good to have a chance to be the ‘hero.’

My brother was my hero throughout our long lives, through many years and many struggles. He always had my back. Last week, at 85, he left this life. He leaves a big hole. But I smile to think that he’s with our Grampa Roy now. Maybe they’re laughing about the part of the rafter story Grampa never knew.

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, a Maine native and graduate of Belfast schools, now lives in Morrill. Her columns appear in this paper every other week.

 

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