.

.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

BLACK BARN TERRITORY

BLACK TOBACCO BARNS SPREAD OUT ACROSS THE LANDSCAPE

Lately I have been thinking about barns and the colors they are painted. I was raised in Michigan and Michigander's barns are, for the most part, painted red. When I drive across Nebraska and Iowa it seems to me that white barns are in the majority. And here in Kentucky black barns are everywhere. Now these calculations are not scientific. It's just the feelings that I get in the different areas I have been exposed to across the nation.

These barn thoughts returned to me today as I was driving down a country road called Highway 21 in Madison County, Kentucky. The air was whitish-gray with a misty fog accompanied by a light grayish overhead sky. These weather conditions created a steely day, from top to bottom. I was in the vicinity of a small crossroads town called Big Hill. I glanced at the surrounding barns -- all painted black. The starkness of the black barns against the day created a surreal impression.

But, back to barn colors. Another color comes to mind when I think of barns and that is yellow. I have not seen it used often. I cannot think of any other colors for barns except white, black, red, and yellow and a no color, a la natural. Why not purple, green, or blue? Or are these colors used someplace I am unaware of? So I now have a question of which I can't seem to find a good answer. I know that the colors of barns are a folkway -- expressing the character and personality of the area over time. My question is why are certain colors dominant in some areas while not in others? Who started all this area favoritism of barn colors?

6 comments:

  1. I always figured that the black paint was supposed to absorb the heat of the sun better. I occasionally see black barns here.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Genevieve -- That sounds like a logical conclusion as the tobacco needs warmth to dry in the black barns. An older farmer in Kentucky offered that maybe because black paint is cheap. I'll go with your view for now. Thanks for writing -- barbara

    ReplyDelete
  3. Painting barns red was to protect the wood by using linseed oil and rust. The rust served to prevent fungus growth and was plentiful around farms. It was a relatively cheap method of protecting the barn. I love driving and looking at old barns, especially the round ones we had in Wisconsin. Nice post.

    ReplyDelete
  4. NCmountainwoman -- So glad that you wrote with an answer as to why the red paint was used on barns. Do you suppose that preventing fungus growth was more of a problem in certain climates and that is why barns in certain areas are painted red? Thanks for the comments -- barbara

    ReplyDelete
  5. One thing about it -- if a black tobacco barn is used for firing tobacco, any black smoke stains will never show.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Genevieve -- Very good point! -- barbara

    ReplyDelete