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Barns provided a way to make a living

-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson
Larry and Annette Boeck have two barns — one built in 1883 and the other believed to be built around that same time as well. The 1883 barn suffered slight damage during a fire, but fortunately it was saved. Charred beams are left as a reminder of how devastating it could have been for the barn.

DENISON — If you have been on U.S. Highway 59 north of Denison, you more than likely have noticed the well-kept farm that is owned by Larry and Annette Boeck. The Boecks are the proud owners of not one, but two barns on their Crawford County family farm, which is practically a landmark for the area.

Both barns, Larry Boeck believes, were built around the same time, in the early 1880s. One specifically was built in 1883.

How does he know that?

“The year has remained on that barn the entire time,” he said.

Boeck said he has been told it was the Ruberg family that owned the farm at the time that had the barns built. Later, his grandfather bought the farm which eventually moved on to Larry Boeck’s parents and now to him and Annette.

One barn was used primarily for livestock as well as a dairy barn. It featured overhead bins for grain storage and there was plenty of room for hay and straw storage in the haymow as well. The basement of the barn was where the dairy was once located. The middle level comes right off of the farmyard and besides being used for the family’s livestock operation, it was used for barn dances in the past.

Boeck said when his family began milking cows, he wasn’t sure if the milk was even graded back then, but remembers it eventually started as Grade B and then moved to Grade A milk as technology and updates to the milking operation became available.

The dairy, he said, assisted in his parent’s cash flow at the time — to help offset their crop farming operation and help raise nine children, and it also aided in paying for their college educations.

Boeck and his brother Dwight Boeck eventually took over the family’s dairy operation and continued until approximately 2010 before they decided to retire from milking.

The other barn, Boeck said, was primarily for livestock and hay storage. Currently, both barns are used for some hay and machinery storage, one is used as a shop and at times are still used for the family’s cattle and hogs.

Regardless of their usage now, they both have always been working barns.

Boeck said he has countless memories of making hay and stacking it in the barns and filling the grain bins in addition to a variety of other chores. All of the work in the barns and the farm — whether it be outside or inside the house — was definitely a family affair as each of the nine children had their own responsibilities.

“We all had to grow through it and do our jobs — we all just had to do our work,” he said.

Through the years, the barns have had some transitions in order to fit the needs of the farm. Boeck said the barns have been housing for not only the cattle and dairy cattle, but for hogs, chickens, geese and ducks.

“We had everything,” he said.

Including bees.

“We had to have someone come in and pull the entire section off of where they were living — it was full of honeycombs. We wanted them out of there,” he said. “I remember when the bees would move and come out to the trees and build large hives.”

It’s a miracle the family still has both barns.

Boeck said he was resting after dinner one day when he was awakened by some commotion outside.

“The yard was covered with fireman and the barn was on fire,” he said. “There were three to four fire departments here. Someone driving by called it in.”

Boeck said they had to cut a hole in the roof and fortunately they had the tools to locate the area where the fire had started.

“It just so happened they had just gotten an infrared camera — I understand it was the first time they used it,” he said. “They found the hot spot back in the corner.”

After some investigation, it was discovered a rodent had a chewed on a wire, sparking the flame to start the fire.

The inside of the barn, Boeck said was charred but thanks to the fast action of the fire departments, the barn was not damaged enough to the point of having to be torn down.

“Right after the fire, we had our guy that does our building repair checked all of the rafters and big beams and they were fine,” he said.

Boeck said that although the barn was structurally sound, it still needed some extensive repair. They had to replace the roof and resteeled the sides.

The charred beams are a daily reminder of just how bad things could have been.

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