I learned to polka in an old barn that was made into a dance hall when I was 16. El Rancho was located north of Park Rapids on your way to Two Inlets. Judy Eischens taught me the polka, something I still enjoy. I can picture the couple who owned that place, but their names escape me now, as do the names of the bands that played there. Mostly, their names were relative anyway--you know, the band that Jayne's sister plays drums for, or the band that has Dave's cute cousin in it.
These memories came flooding back to me on the hay ride held at the recent barn dance at Wayne and Jean Lesmeister's farm. El Rancho is closed now and there aren't very many places anywhere that have a band just because it's Friday. Even fewer are the opportunities to scoop my daughter in my arms and grab my son by the hand and teach them that you can celebrate friends and family in dance. Oh yeah, once in awhile I'll turn on Funtime Polka on Pioneer Public TV, move the couch back and dance in the living room, but my son assures me this is a sure of sign of being a geek. Stay tuned son, my geekiness will grow with you.
The barn dance was held as part of a larger exhibit called, Barn Again! Celebrating an American Icon. The exhibit was created by the Smithsonian Institute to explore the barn as an architectural structure and looks at the origin and fate of the barn in its roles as warehouse, factory, and legend. The exhibit runs through June 30th at the Stevens County Historical Museum. If you can, stop by this Sunday, May 23rd, and listen to the Granary Girls perform as part of the annual Museum Day festivities. It's not a barn dance, but again, how often do you get to hear good, live music for no reason other than friends have gathered?
Despite being, for all intents and purposes, a city kid, I have other barn memories. When I was four, we lived on Esser's farm. The barn for me at that time was a wonderful place of adventure and royalty. All of my siblings are older than me, so they were in school and I had the run of the place. There were three horses in the barn and I was the princess of the stable. I can't count how many hours were spent riding in circles, waving to the chickens as though they were a cheering crowd. Better yet, I honestly can't remember ever having to the clean the barn, although I do remember a couple of nasty old chickens that made fine soup with dumplings.
I have had many chances to take my children to barns to see the miracle of birth, to give them perspective on how big a cow is, how small a piglet is and why you should watch where you step.