Barn Painting: “The Boss”

I add farm animals, usually chickens, to my barn paintings, since, after all, it’s a farm and they belong. But, when I noticed geese on this farm, owned by Gary and Rachel Boggs, I decided that they deserved recognition. But first the barn.

Inside, several long – about 40 feet – hand hewn beams support the roof, which would normally date the barn to the mid-1800s. But not so fast – Rachel told me that this barn was built in 1901, which accounts for some sawmill cut timbers, but not for the raw-cut massive beam. She guesses that the builder, Charles Weatherhogg, used old timbers, these gigantic beams, from the original barn, which goes back to James Hart, who owned the original 160 acres in 1862. That makes sense. Over the next 150 years, the farm changed hands several times, ending with the Boggs, who have added a new roof to insure that this barn lasts another 150 years.

Occasionally, barn will have decorative wood around the windows, as this one does. Whoever added the flair wanted to show his neighbors that his barn was no ordinary one. It had class. And, as a bonus, Rachel gave me a piece of this fancy window trim, evidence that some old barns weren’t drab wallflowers. I turned it into a small frame, painted the barn in a fog, and tossed in this “extra” painting to make a full baker’s dozen.

Now for the geese and the painting’s title. Rachel told me that they’ve had these Chinese Weeder Geese for several years. I didn’t know much about them, but I found out that they earn their keep. They eat weeds, grasses, and, yet they leave the strawberries, corn, and cotton alone. The environmental herbicide! Why do they eat weeds and grass and leave the cash crops alone? You’d have to ask the geese. And, they’re workaholics, weeding from dawn to dark and, on some nights, continuing to weed under moonlight.

So I included three of them in the painting. And, geese, like people, have personalities. Rachel told me their names: the young lady Miss Tilly Grey, Ruben, and Reggie. I asked Rachel if one of them was an “Alvin,” like the chipmunk in the famous Christmas song. No, there’s no Alvin here, but Ruben is bossy, she said. “He always is first to the feed pen and he doesn’t like the others to disturb him while he eats.” In fact, if Miss Tilly Gray or Reggie should venture too close to the boss during feeding, they get nipped. “I enjoy caring for my ducks and geese, feeding them and watching them on the pond. I guess it’s just my mothering instinct and they don’t complain. They are always glad to see me,” Rachel told me. That’s what farm life I all about. But, for me, the next time I visit I’ll be sure to steer clear of “the boss.”