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In the summer of 1940 we moved to Raymond, Neb., where Dad would be closer to the University of Nebraska as he finished his master's degree in school administration.

Finding a rental house in Raymond was not easy, but finally Dad found a small house with a barn that had been the original farm dating back to before the town existed.  

The problem was that the barn, which was bigger than the house, listed about 30 degrees and was about to fall. It looked like a slight push would send the barn to barn-heaven. Keeping kids and animals out was a constant concern.  

It was a Nebraska version of the leaning tower of Pisa. I was never allowed to go into the barn because we never knew for sure when the barn was going to collapse.

So Dad made a deal with the owner that if Dad would dismantle the barn, he could salvage and sell the lumber. One of our family activities in the evenings was to watch Dad, up on a ladder, taking board after board off the barn. My job was to remove the nails from the boards and stack them.   

This went on for several weeks. Pretty soon the siding was almost entirely removed from one side, and the studs and rafters were exposed like the skeleton of a gigantic animal. In spite of the huge scar on one side, the barn stayed up.  

So then Dad tackled one end. This was more than the old barn could take.  One evening Dad removed another siding board and there was a groan from deep inside the barn. Dad scurried off the ladder and stood waiting for the structure to keel over, but nothing more happened.  

Dad got back up on the ladder and removed another board. Once more there was a low groan from deep inside the barn. Dad jumped off the ladder, but again nothing more happened.

This process was repeated several times, and each time the groan was louder and lasted longer. Finally, Dad removed a board and the groan didn’t stop. In slow motion the old barn gave up.  

Almost imperceptibly at first the barn began to lean more and more. Then it picked up speed and finally came down with a mighty “whump.” A huge cloud of dust like an explosion went up in the sky. It was visible from all over town, and soon people came running to see what had happened.  

Even after school started in the fall, Dad continued to salvage boards from the fallen monstrous structure. It was no longer alive; it was dead like a beached whale. I felt sorry for the barn, but Dad did earn enough from the salvaged wood to buy our first radio.

Bob Larsen

Bob Larsen is a retired surgeon whose eclectic career has allowed him to see the world.

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