Archive for Thursday, May 31, 2007

Lecturer spreads barn lore

May 31, 2007

For Joyce Thierer, barns aren't dusty, old relics suited only for farm animals.

"Barns are a place to talk, to dream," she told an audience Tuesday night, May 29, at Lansing Historical Museum.

Thierer, professor of agriculture at Emporia State University and the only agricultural historian in the state, invited the audience of 17 to share their stories of hayloft swings, milking cows and sour egg fights during her program, "Stories from the Barn."

To Thierer, barns are a place that represent collective roots and cultural character.

She showed slides of various barns as she explained how geographical patterns, environment and technology have impacted the evolution of barns and ultimately contributed to their decline.

Barns also were playgrounds for a few audience members, including Thierer.

She said when the "city kids" came from Topeka to visit, she played a game of catch with rotten eggs, that usually were never caught.

Barns were also places of sadness and controversy, she said.

"Technology killed barns, machines came to replace barns, so as barns fall and are misused, they ultimately will fall to ruin," she said.

Thierer said some barns are recycled into craft wood or repackaged into modern homes.

"Most, if lucky, will be incorporated into new farmsteads," she said.

"As we become more urban, they'll only remain in people's memories," she said.

Rebecca Brown recently moved to Lansing from California. Her mother, Dorris Brownson, 90, of Lansing, grew up on a farm in Richardson County, Neb.

"Barns are part of visual interest and it would be sad to lose them," Brown said.

Thierer's program was sponsored by the Kansas Humanities Council, a nonprofit organization that promotes cultural history and traditions. Thierer is part of the council's Speakers Bureau, which she joined in 1994. She is also a member of the Kansas Barn Alliance.

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