By Ruth A. Ringelstetter
Over the years of photographing, Joann and I have lost the locations of several photographic subjects and later managed to find them again. Most of the locations were from our earliest days of photographing when we weren’t so diligent about logging the location of each photo.
About a year ago, Joann said she was looking for the photos of a barn on a Wisconsin Rustic Road that we had visited sometime earlier. No matter how she searched the logs, she couldn’t find it. I tried my hand at searching, and I couldn’t find it either.
Joann had a reason for looking for it, but when she couldn’t find it, she found another photo that would suffice. Later, as she was processing other photos, she stumbled on the photos from the day we had been at that barn on the Rustic Road.
She started to wonder what the barn looked like now, several years later. The roof had some problems already in 2009, and the roof of a barn is the most vulnerable, especially in our harsh Wisconsin winters.
She asked me to put it on our “return to” list for as soon as possible. So, on August 5th, of 2015, we returned to Vernon County to capture this barn and a few other locations we had on the list. We didn’t have a lot of time that day, but we made sure to get there just before we had to head for home. With a backdrop of a gorgeous blue sky with puffy white clouds, Joann took a few photos, and we headed for home.
Then on September 22nd, we were beginning our fall photography with our annual trip to the apple orchard. As we were eating our “breakfast” of apple cider donuts (it was close to 11:00 A.M. by that time), we talked about how close we were to Vernon County, and maybe we should run past the barn again.
This time we approached from the opposite direction from our previous visit and drove the Rustic Road backwards. It’s really interesting how different locations and subjects look just by driving them a way you haven’t before. A different season, a different direction, a different time of day, can all affect what you notice.
This time Joann took some close-ups of windows, the vents, and hay hood.
This barn has metal vents, and one has a weathervane on top. Vents on barns were to ventilate the hay. Spontaneous combustion is a threat to farmers who store newly baled hay in barn lofts. I remember our father always monitoring the hay after it was in the barn, checking for hot spots.
Hay hoods on barns extended out from the top ridge of the barn over the pulley mechanism for lifting hay into the loft. Not all barns have a hay hood. We always loaded hay into the barn using a bale conveyor and a lot of manual labor.
Joann had already asked if we could return again in winter after we got some snow on the ground. So, on January 14th of 2016, after a pretty good snow, we headed west again with a goal of getting some good winter pictures of the barn on the Rustic Road.
When a barn’s roof begins to go, we start to worry. What if we have a winter with a lot of wet heavy snow? Many a barn is standing in the fall, and by the end of winter, either the roof has fallen in, or the whole barn has toppled over.
We didn’t want this barn to suffer that fate before we could get our photos. We made sure to get there with a little more time than we had given ourselves before. Joann stopped the car farther down the road and took some shots.
Then we moved the car closer to the barn and she pulled over as far as she could (harder to do in the winter with plowed snowbanks at the sides of the road), and ventured off with her tripod, camera, and extra equipment bag.
She walked along the roads around the barn, taking photos from every direction. She knew we might be lucky and find the barn still standing the next time we pass by, but the barn could just as easily be but a memory when we return. In this case, we drove the road three times in one year, but it was after we hadn’t driven the road for five years.
If you’re driving down a Wisconsin road and you see a “Jct Rustic Road” sign, consider taking a slight detour to drive the road. You never know what you might find!