The dilapidated barn next door to my dad's house slumps into the earth, the ground in front of it scarred deep by tire tracks of semi trucks and littered with the limp carcasses of Douglas fir trees. The paint hanging from its walls is dingy and chipped, the silo is rusted, and it is used for nothing. Occasionally it houses insecticide to deter pests from interfering in the growth of the rows and rows of Christmas trees planted within the surrounding fields. I remember when it wasn't like that.
When my dad first moved into this house, Kate Tucker's house, I marveled at the proud white barn accented with red trim that had once accompanied this farmhouse. The large barn was used to milk dairy cows, its rows of gleaming stanchions spanning the length of the vast cement floor. At that time in my life, everything looked like a gymnastics apparatus, holding potential in each curve and crook to flip and tumble upon. I don't remember much from Jurassic Park 2, but I do remember a young girl lithely knocking out a bloodthirsty dinosaur by flipping around a pole hanging from the roof of a barn. "Don't you mess with any of that stuff, it is for cows," my dad would always warn after I implored him to explore the old barn with me. So, the dairy cow harness gymnastics stayed safely in my imagination and no bones or equipment was ever broken. Walking up the creaky stairs in the corner, I found myself standing in a hay loft, the chestnut floor still littered with golden straw. The huge square window once used for transferring hay to and from the ground now simply stood open, allowing the warm summer breeze to waft through.
Kate Tucker, the original owner of my dad's house and that barn, might have been the coolest lady who ever lived in Rugby. She and her husband Breece built this house in 1939 and lived here tending their dairy farm until their deaths. They were well respected and probably the wealthiest folks in the county. They worked hard, they were involved in the community, helping their neighbors when they could, and would often donate a significant portion of their money. In a time when women's roles were strictly defined, Kate defied those roles. She almost always wore pants when such a thing was almost unheard of in Rugby, she served as the postmaster for the Rugby post office for a time, and joined her husband in running their dairy farm.
But one day Kate Tucker messed up. She and her husband did not attended church services weekly as most everyone else in Rugby did. They went occasionally though, which seemed to appease most of the community members who took such things very seriously. (Probably everybody except the moonshiners.) While welcoming them when they attended, the church on the corner cast a skeptical eye towards the Tuckers, perhaps expecting they would only sporadically adhere to other church practices as well. A while back I told you that the Rugby Rescue Squad doesn't allow dancing during their gatherings and benefits and the reason is that some church leaders believe dancing is an expression of evil and leads to evil acts. Well, Kate Tucker did not heed that warning.
In that hay loft of the big and bright barn, Kate decided to have a party. She invited her friends who could play music to bring their instruments, and invited anyone who wanted to join her to come. Friends flocked from near and far, kind of along the lines of a Wayne Henderson patented post-festival party. And everyone danced. They danced into the wee hours of the evening.
When the church caught wind that Kate had hosted a barn dance, she was excommunicated from their services. Just for dancing.
Here's the part of the story where suppressing acts of love, kindness and happiness doesn't win in the end. Kate never mentioned it, but she also didn't forget how the church on the corner excluded her for holding a barn dance. Because she had no children, when she passed away, everyone in the community was interested to see where her wealth would be distributed. She bequeathed $300,000 each to three local churches, and only $10,000 to her ex church, specifically to keep up the cemetery in which she was laid next to her husband. Here's another reason I think we would have gotten along: she also loved her three large dogs enough to leave $10,000 to their continued care following her death.
I have quite a few more stories about Kate which I look forward to sharing with you. I used to worry that she haunted this old house, and when my dad would go out to his shop, when it was in a little building about a mile away, I would cower in my room, listening for sounds of a ghost. Now when I am alone here in this house, I am proud to imagine that she is here with me, watching over her house and reminding me to be a strong woman. That it is important to stand up for my beliefs, even if they might not be shared by everyone around me. Be kind, inclusive, and supportive of others.
In closing to this post, I want to apologize (as usual) for the lag time in my posts. If you read this and want to read more, please let me know that! I never know if anyone actually reads what I write so I tend to focus on other tasks (like guitar building) that I am more consistently reminded need my attention. Also, do you enjoy these old stories or would you prefer to know more about the my daily tasks as a luthier? In any event, thank you so much for reading and supporting my work. I hope you had the most amazing holiday season and wish all of you the very best for 2016!