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silo and barn
barn and silo
barn and silo

Barn and Silo  ~  New Jersey and West Virginia

Top:   West Virginia Highway 92 just north of County Route 92/4   •   August 24, 2009
Bottom:   New Jersey Highway 94 near the New York state line   •   August 18, 2009
Photos by Beau Bosko


By Ebenezer Baldwin Bowles

Posted on December 10, 2010, from Fayetteville, Arkansas

A barn on the rural landscape, especially an old barn with extraordinary character, speaks to the imagination through the soft voices of nostalgia and the agreeable harmonies of pastoral reverie.  The barn's character rises from multiple and diverse expressions of reality and fancy:  of shape and color, of architectural design and practical function, of placement on the landscape and concord with other structures and elements of nature that surround and enfold it.

Old barns make the favorites list for a good number of backroads travelers and photo gallery surfers.  Like sunsets, animals, waterfalls, flowers, and mountain vistas, these icons of rural life populate the portfolios of photographers with comforting predictability.  "I like pictures of old barns," she said.  Yes.  But why?

I'll admit:  The old-barn motif isn't one of my passions.  But I can't resist when forces of Art and Desire are set into motion.  After the journey has begun and the backroads sensibility gains full control of my imagination, the old barn becomes a prime player on the passing scene.  Some are so downright interesting — so handsome, so distinctive, so representative of a bygone era — that they cry out to the wandering traveler.  Stop!  See what you may before you pass by, once and for all.

silo up close

Drawing Near in West Virginia
Looking northeast in the afternoon light.
The barn and silo sit on the low slope of a hill on the east side of West Virginia 92.

The essence of a thing intrigues me, sometimes to the detriment of setting and context.  I tend to burrow toward the microcosm, as if the act of perception becomes heightened and enhanced by my drawing closer and closer to the surface and the shell.  Go close enough and deep enough, and I may discover the source.

Two viewpoints of each barn and silo are offered here.  As companion images, each pair is created from the same master set of pixels to illustrate the interplay of choice and perception, the conflict between far and near.  In the one we draw back to search the big picture for clues to relatedness and insights into the harmony of integrated forms.  In the other we draw in to reveal entry points to essence and origin.

The agricultural landscape speaks to romantic ideals of rustic charm and rural innocence, a place removed from the fray, where man seeks an equitable accommodation with nature.  (O, were it only true.)

The architectural portrait selects and eliminates, emphasizing precise relationships and defining characteristics.  It can highlight meaningful comparisons and contrasts between objects in close proximity to one another, or pare down a thing to its elemental features.

In this light, a created thing — the electric image, the oil on canvas, the quartet for strings, the ode to beauty — becomes a narrowing, the remainder, the final stopping point to a series of choices.  You surmise at the heights to go on forever, but then of a sudden the created thing is done, set aside, released into the world.

Or, you can simply enjoy the show for a moment or two — and be done with it.

silo up close

Drawing Near in Jersey
The camera was facing east under the noonday light.
New Jersey 94, a north-south route, stretched in front of the barn and silo.
Me 'n Godzilla were parked about three miles from the New York state line.
The highway is also called Vernon Warwick Road.


lilbatA Google Eye's View of the West Virginia barn and silo
Complaints about invaded privacy to the contrary, Google maps are an amazing step forward in navigation technology. Despite taking several tours on Google's street view chariot, I couldn't find the New Jersey barn. How surprised I was, then, to see the West Virginia property on my first virtual trip along Highway 92. For the backroads traveler, the Google maps web is an excellent tool for selecting motels along the road less traveled. You can fire-up your computer and then drive-up to see the roadside inns and surrounding neighborhood.

lilbatJoseph Dempsey's Photo of the Week
My very favorite barn photographer is my pal Joseph Dempsey, whose ongoing study of old barns leans toward the very old members of the genre, those last man standing testaments to bygone construction skills and quirky design motifs.  The link above will take you to Joseph's "Index of Weekly Photos."  Below is a collection of links to Major Dempsey's old barns.

see it  An Angle of Mystery

see it  Happenstance

see it  No Explanation Needed

see it  Return to Smead

see it  The Golden Hour

see it  Meandering through the Mountains

see it  101 and Standing Tall

see it  In the Neighborhood of 1876

see it  Drag Up and Listen

see it  Harvey's Barn

see it  Rodgers Barn

see it  A Picture of Heritage

see it  Among the Mother Lode

see it  A Bike in the Barn

see it  Finding Chester

see it  Ruin Deprivation

see it  Logs and Barns


lilbatD & D Farm Center
Although not entirely a barn, the D & D Farm Center granary in Viola, Illinois, expresses the concepts of creation and change that some of us discern in these venerable structures. It also relates to the photos on this page. Lord willin' and the creeks don't rise, we shall return to the Glossary and Compendium in near future to share images of other old barns discovered on our travels through the backcountry of rural U.S.A.


Notices announcing new entries for Crow's Cottage Glossary and Compendium are sent by e-mail express to my list of family, friends, students, and fellow travelers. If you've come here by some other means, I invite you to write me at the address below so I can add you to the list.  It's a private list, shared with no one and guarded by a flock of warrior crows with loud alarms and diligent fairies with tricks of illusion.  Aggressive or pacific — you choose — the guardians are in our service to ensure your privacy.

Ebenezer Bowles

Friday, December 10, 2010
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