Mace Barn by Jim Murphy
Appeared in The News Record and Sentinel December 4 2013
The first thing you notice is the size. Much bigger than your standard tobacco barn, this one is a generous two stories high. At the top, underneath the tin gambrel roof, are three levels of beams to hang tobacco, and beneath them enough floor space to stack a year’s worth of hay bales. Downstairs is the livestock area, stalls for the horses or mules and space for a couple of cows. Extending out from one side of the barn, a shed the size of a small bedroom was added as storage space for loose hay. You could call it the Everything Barn.
It has been in the Mace family since 1951, when William Mace says it was built as a backup tobacco barn for years with a particularly good crop — and as a place for the milk cow and the working animals.
William’s son, Brian takes a visitor upstairs and points out the open spaces in the floor, where they could fork hay down into the horse stalls below. He is recalling years long gone, years when he, as a young boy, would leap from the second floor into the loose hay piled up in the shed. Now, the top floor is stacked with family remnants, including a computer and a rocking horse William made for his granddaughter, Brianna, who has grown into a bright and engaging fifth-grader at Mars Hill elementary school.
Brianna is the sixth generation of the Mace family to occupy this land, and on a breezy Saturday morning three of those generations gathered to talk about their old barn.
William and his wife Beatrice, their son Brian and granddaughter Brianna each had their own perspective on the old barn. William recalled it was built in 1951, while he was serving in the Army. He said it could hold about an acre and a half of tobacco, “when the other barn was full.”
Beatrice took a long look at the weathered boards, still showing the last faded traces of red paint, and recalled, “A crew came through here in the 80s, offered to paint the barn for $500. They sprayed a coat thinner than paper on it and moved on. Of course it didn’t last long.”
Brian recalls those days of jumping into the hay and even today working in the barn by lantern light after he gets home from work each day.
And then there’s Brianna. One wouldn’t expect a 10-year old to have much to offer in a conversation about an old barn. But her story adds a new and unexpected chapter to the barn’s role in Mace family history.
Brianna wanted to attend a three-day school-sponsored science fair at Lake Toxaway next April. Her parents weren’t too enthusiastic about sending their 10-year-old off alone on an overnight trip. They made a deal: If she could raise the $165 fee, she could go to the fair. Neither of them thought she could possibly do enough extra chores to raise that kind of money, so they weren’t very worried about sending her off.
Then Brianna entered the Appalachian Barn Alliance photo contest with a picture of the faded two-story 62-year old barn out behind the house.
And she won!
Her 1st place entry in the youth division earned her a prize of $100, and suddenly Lake Toxaway appeared a lot closer. Brian shakes his head reluctantly — indulgently — as a grinning Brianna explains that she’s only seven dollars away from her goal. “I guess we have to let her go,” he says grinning, “Or else I’d be a liar.”
Brianna explains that the kids will sleep “in a lodge that’s huuuuuuge.” Then, her grin growing even wider, she summons her favorite word to give the trip her ultimate approval.
“It’ll be awesome!”