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Keep Your Eyes On Your Boots When You Enter The Barn

by Crystal Rae 4 months ago in family
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Being raised on a farm there were always dangerous creatures to be aware of along with the knowledge of how to properly protect yourself if you were to come face to face with one of them.

Keep Your Eyes On Your Boots When You Enter The Barn
Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

When I was a much younger version of the woman I am today, my parents moved my brother and me to my grandparent's ranch on the outskirts of Glasgow, Montana. If you have never heard of this town before don't worry as most residents of Montana don't even know where to find it. The town slogan is "Come Find Yourself in the Middle of Nowhere." They truly mean it. It is 20 miles to any nearby towns, not that you would need to travel to them for anything. Glasgow is where the surrounding townsfolk come for all their needs. It has the post office, courthouse, hardware store, western ag shop for ammo, guns, boots, and more. Although you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere, it truly is the only place to go somewhere other than the lake or farm.

My grandparents were old school farmers who lived and breathed the predictions written in black ink in the most current farmer's almanac. Typically, the weather and seasonal timelines were fairly spot on. This gave our grandparents the notice they needed to determine when to plant the seed, when to water, and when to harvest. This prevented the farm from having an early freeze or weeks of rainfall after a watering spell that would ruin the seed. A missed season of harvest could easily put the farm back into the bank's hands. Farming was not a lifestyle for becoming rich. It was a way of living that was handed down from generation to generation.

It wasn't just the way of living that was passed down to the next generation. There were rules to follow and lessons that were taught on all the various creatures that too lived on the farm. Ones that were valuable to the farm and ones that were not. From a young age, you were told how to identify the differences in these creatures and what to do if you crossed the path of any of them at any given time. You learned to not ask a lot of questions and do as you were told. Lack of knowledge or not trusting in what you were told could mean the difference between growing old with all of your limbs or even worse not making it safely back to the farmhouse when the supper bell rang.

Of the seven siblings, my mother was raised with only five had made it to adult age. We had always known there were seven children my grandmother had given birth to and yet, only five were alive when I was born but you didn't bring it up as you could see the sadness in my mother's eyes and her voice would start to crack up as she would ignore the questions and send us off to do some chores. The feeling in my stomach told me something bad had happened but I knew better than to ask more questions. My father would always give us that look that we knew meant "keep upsetting your mother and you can expect to get a butt whooping."

My grandparents did not approve of my mother marrying my father. He was from a long line of generations of fishermen. A lifestyle that would prove to be much easier than life on the farm but it meant my mother would have to move. This also would mean one less person to help on the farm. Against her parent's wishes, she ran off and married my father anyway. Even though they settled down only a few towns away at Fort Peck. It still was several years before they were allowed back on the farm to even visit. My birth was the beginning of the end of the family feud. My mother would bring me to visit while my father was away on his fishing trips.

When I began to walk and talk I remember always following my grandpa out the farmhouse door, only to be grabbed by my grandma as we waved to him, watching as he walked toward the barn. With each new year, I was eventually big enough to walk with grandpa to the barn. I remember the first time I stood behind him as he unlatched the huge red doors. Before pushing them open, he looked very sternly at me and said, "Always look at your boots when you walk into the barn"! I was too young to question what it meant or what it was protection for but based on his tone of voice, I knew he was serious. So, I did as I was told. Each and every time I entered the barn I stared at my feet as I walked inside. Over the years I added my own rule of counting ten steps before raising my eyes off my boots and towards the stacks of hay bales.

My mother would give birth to my brother before my 6th birthday. He was the center of attention now which meant I was free to explore more than typical. I usually always had eyes on me. Telling me to be careful. To watch for rattlesnakes or bears. I heard it all so many times I swear I could repeat them word for word. Each time rolling my eyes as far as I could to the back of my head. As my brother grew, instead of helping on the farm, he would head off with our father to learn the ways of the fish. I didn't mind, as it meant I didn't get stuck having to babysit when we were outside. My brother rarely listened to me and if he came back to the farmhouse with a basic bug bite, I was in trouble for not protecting him. Babysitting him was such a bore for me. He never listened and I wasn't allowed near the barn when he was with me. I began to resent him for the restrictions being placed on me. The barn was my favorite place to be!

One random weekday, I remember my father asking my grandpa to ride with him to Miles City as he was purchasing a new truck for pulling his boat. My grandpa rarely left the farm and it was not the harvesting season, so he agreed to go. The plan was to also take my brother to make it a guy's road trip. I remember thinking how awesome it was going to be to explore the farm and barn again without him getting in my way. Sadly, my brother was not feeling well the night prior to the trip so my mother thought it would be best for him to stay home. As my father and grandpa drove off down the long dirt road to the interstate, we all waved from the farmhouse porch. Grandma said a quick prayer to bless my father's eyes, other drivers and keep all the deer off the interstate.

I, being just weeks away from my 16th birthday, was ecstatic to have the freedom to roam the farm and barn without everyone watching on me. I knew I wasn't supposed to be in the barn when grandpa wasn't with me but I had been in there a million times. I knew exactly how to open the doors, to watch my boots as I took ten steps, and then I was free to climb to the top of the bales of hay. I ran full speed towards the barn. I couldn't wait to get inside and away from all of them.

I opened the latch, looked behind me, and then stared at my boots as I walked inside the barn. I counted my ten steps and ran to the tallest stack of hay and began to climb. Just as I was about to leap from the top to the next level of hay bales, I heard my brother yelling my name as he entered the barn. In my excitement, I had left the doors wide open. Before I could yell back at him to stare at his boots, he ran inside and had his eyes looking up at me. Our yelling and screaming must have caused alarm to those hiding within the barn, as a huge white bird screeched and flew over my head, down towards my brother, and out the barn doors. It scared the heck out of me. I had been in the barn a million times and never once had seen that bird or heard that screech.

I grabbed my brother by the arm and pulled him out of the barn. I shut the doors and closed the latch. I made my brother promise to not tell anyone that we were in the barn or about the huge white bird. I had no idea where it came from but I didn't want to have to explain why I was in the barn without grandpa. He made me promise I wouldn't.

Several weeks had gone by and I was certain the barn incident was no longer an issue or a worry. No sooner than I had let out the sigh of relief that had built up inside me, I caught a glimpse of my brother running from the hardware store to our father's truck, flapping his arms like wings and making screetching sounds like the bird from the barn. I ran towards him and I smacked him in the gut. This caused his sounds and actions to instantly stop. Before he could attempt to cry and tattle on my violence towards him, a stranger who had been watching him frantically approached me and said, "Why is he acting like that? Did he see it?", I didn't know this person and his panicked questions caused me to freeze. I just stood there and said nothing. He again asked, "Did he see the white owl?" My brother looked up at the stranger and shook his head in the motion to say no. The stranger's body seemed to ease up with my brother's response.

As my brother climbed into the truck. The stranger looked at me and said, "Any person that looks a white barn owl in the eyes is cursed and will soon be taken by death!" I could feel the color drain from my face as I turned to follow my brother into the cab of the truck. The entire ride back to the farm, I didn't say one word. I wasn't sure what to say. Was the stranger telling the truth or just trying to scare an energetic kid and his annoyed teenage sister? If he was telling the truth, should I tell my parents? My grandpa had always said to stare at my boots when walking in the barn. Was this to prevent any accidental eye contact with a white barn owl?

I couldn't sleep that night. I wasn't sure what I should do or if anything could be done. I also wondered if the white barn owl had anything to do with the deaths of my mother's two other siblings. As I staggered to the kitchen table for breakfast, I could barely keep my eyes open or stay focused on anything being said to me. All night I begged God for an answer. There had to be something I could do to prevent the white barn owl from cursing anyone else. Just then my grandma snapped her fingers in front of my face. "Hello, are you not awake?" my eyes began to focus on her standing in the kitchen holding a pan. "Can you please dump this grease in the can outside?" she asked me as she began to hand me the potholder and pan. "If you spill it in the grass, it will start a fire, so please be careful."

I jumped out of my seat and grabbed the pan. That was it! My answer to preventing this curse from ever happening again. I ran as fast as I could towards the barn. I ran through the open doors and stared at my feet as I charged towards the hay. Dumping the grease all over the barn. Then I ran back outside and locked the latch on the huge red doors. I smiled in pride at my quick thinking and fast actions to save future generations and maybe even the world? As the barn doors and roof had dark black smoke rolling out of every crack or hole in the weathered wood. I knew I had finally ended the curse of the white barn owl. I knew my brother and family were going to be safe.

Running from the burning barn towards the farmhouse, my parents and grandma were crying and grabbing buckets of water in an attempt to put out the raging fire. I knew they wouldn't understand why I had done it at first but once I told them everything they would all be so proud of me.

My grandma grabbed my shoulders and began shaking me when I reached the farmhouse porch and in between her screams and sobbing, I could barely hear her say, "Your grandpa and brother were inside of the barn".

family

About the author

Crystal Rae

My passion is writing ~ My dream is to be a best-selling author.

I am just like you... trying to figure out this thing called life.

My experiences are only different because they are written in black and white!

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