The 3500 square foot barn was originally constructed in 1914. It was a dairy barn, equiped to milk cows on the first floor and store hay on the second floor. Lois was able to aquire the house and barn (and other multiple small farm buildings), on 5 acres, in 1983. The House and the barn were in ill-repair. The barn, long abandoned, had substantial damage to the roof on the north end. Water damage was beginning to take its toll. It also housed many creatures, including an abundant supply of raccoons, bats, rats, mice, and pigeons. The first floor, along with the waste troughs running the length of the barn, had a foot and 1/2 of dried manure. (which Lois' brother Mike later shoveled out!!) The wood flooring on the second floor was old and rickety, with substantial rot on the north end due to water damage. The floor was covered in pigeon feathers, (and their processed food)....it looked like 10,000 pigeons exploded!!. The other buildings on the property, including the pump house, chicken coop, and the "I can't believe it's still standing" hog barn were in bad shape as well. Lois, however, with her rose colored glasses, could see what could be..........she knew that one day, this old cow barn will be back in it's own glory. 

One late evening in the 1980s, as Lois was cleaning the kitchen, there was a knock on the door. Back then, Gougar Road was a gravel road...seldom traveled....not the "expressway" we have today.....so any visitor, especially late at night, would be unusual. Lois cracked the kitchen window and asked the skinny bearded man what he wanted. He could see Lois was alarmed (and possibly armed), so he backed away and said, I've admired your barn for years; I see that it's in need of repair....if you don't do something soon, you could lose it! He also stated that he restores these old barns for a living...he'd just hate to see this one go. Lois mentioned that she has plans to restore the barn, but she didn't have the money at the time. He left his card, sliding it through the crack in the window. Lois took the card and stared at it for a moment, and with a smile, stored it in her kitchen cabinet to the right of the stove. 

More to come!

 

 Gary - The Barn Guy

 Fast-forward to 2001. Lois and I have been married a year. We have completed the addition on our house and the entire family, Lois, Mike, Shannon, Jason, and Laura are all under one roof. The Barn....unfortunately, has suffered many more years of wear and tear due to the elements. We are at a crossroad so to speak....either we do something or we lose the barn! The north 1/3 of the roof was caving in, the barn had shifted and out of square...........a good storm could have brought the structure down.  

Well....thank goodness Lois never throws away anything! (and I mean anything). She reached up into her kitchen cabinet, to the right of the stove, and she magically pulled Gary Coburn's card out as if she put it in there yesterday!!! And this is with many more years of "absolutely necessary essential documents" shoved into that cabinet!!! Houdini would have applauded!

How many business cards are still accurate after 20+ years? We dialed the fading phone number kind of in jest, realizing that chances are slim to none that it would ring. Well, what do you know....a voice answers....a slightly southern twangy voice. To our surprise and amazement, it was Gary! Next thing you know we arranged to meet with him when he passed through our area.

We've never really met Gary so we didn't know what to expect. He was unassuming when he pulled up, thin, jeans, t-shirt and hat similar to what he is wearing in the picture above. Very friendly and a warm southern smile. His face is a little weathered..... With a few adjustments he could be the next Marlberle Man!

He got right to work and hustled into the barn....... He took to that barn like a big bass being released back into a lake! He scaled it from top to bottom inside and out.... And then proceeded to walk us through, giving us the essentials that needed to be done in order to save the barn:

- the barn had to be jacked up, squared and put back on the foundation level and square; I'm thinking $

- the wood shingles and roof sheeting needed to be removed; I'm thinking $$

- about 30 percent of the roof rafters had to be replaced; I'm thinking $$$

- the ridge of the roof had to be leveled: $$$$

- about 20 percent of the siding would have to be replaced; then obviously the roof would have to be sheeted in 1x6 lumber then roofed with metal roofing! I'm thinking #%€¥!!?%#!!!

Keep in mind that I majored in Accounting and I am currently a banker. Things that I do have to make financial sense.....at least break even..... Or there should be equal amount of enjoyment received for what you pay....others may call that a vacation... Or the purchase of a boat. But a 100 year old barn? What are we going to do with this thing?

But then I look at Lois..... This wonderful woman who, in the 80's when she purchased this place, envisioned restoring this barn to its former glory.... I think she was actually floating behind Gary as he walked and talked; which reminds me of one of her childhood dreams where she was a little girl running through the fields and would begin to fly as she bent her little legs behind her. 

So, even before Gary worked up a price I was having mixed emotions. My wife's life long dream....throwing a lot of money into a deep black hole.... What about my boat??? Surely we are not going to be able to afford this..... Even Lois will see that!

 Well, Gary threw us a price I can't even print. There is no way...... He would supply the labor - workers from PA and their room and board while in IL? He would supply all the material? For this amount?

This just went from a dream that isn't going to happen short of the Lotto to - is this guy for real? 

As I think about it now in my usual paranoid state, I can't help but think Lois and Gary conspired together. I can hear the secret discussion " throw such a low price he has no defense to stand on.... This will get the ball rolling.... Gary, I guarantee that you will be handsomely compensated as we commit to more work.... You and I both know this is a lifelong project" hmmmmmm....

Lois and I took a trip out to PA to see Gary's world. We did not know Gary... And wanted to get to know him and see his work.

 

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