Country MagazineThe seemingly inaccessible loft in our barn held many treasures. A metal bed frame, old pots, dusty barrels, and baskets, all sorts of good junk that three sisters between 6 and 10 years old could play with.
But my sisters and I puzzled over how to get up there, until one morning, climbing the big open stairs to the haymow, I figured it out. I climbed onto the top of a heavy door next to the stairs, balanced on top, and swung into the loft. Janice and Debbie followed my lead.
We discovered the loft’s treasures were covered with pigeon droppings and dust. But the greatest find of all was the rocking chair. It was huge, made of heavy, thick, dark oak. The seat was covered with some ratty ripped fabric over rusty broken springs. We decided to clean the loft and make it our fort. And we’d get a pillow and some fabric from Mom for the seat on the chair.
So we scraped and cleaned off the pigeon mess as best we could, but we knew we would have to take the chair outside and wash it with the garden hose before we could really sit in it. For that we needed a ladder.
The next morning we went into the barnyard and pulled down the giant, heavy wooden ladder that went up into the haymow (we were not allowed to use this ladder). It was so heavy that it took all three of us to carry it. We had to lean the ladder on the haymow stairs, climb the steps, and keep pushing it over little by little until we got it in place.
Janice and I went up to the loft while Debbie held the ladder. We dragged the chair over to the edge, and I started down the steps holding the chair on my back. Once we had the chair on the ground, all we had to do was wash it with the hose, get it back up the ladder to the loft, then put Dad’s ladder back where it belonged before he got home from work. No problem! We dried the chair with old rags and swiped on Mom’s furniture polish to make it shine.
We were just finishing up when Dad pulled into the driveway. He came over to the chair and admired it. “That’s a big chair, girls; it looks like it would fit your old dad.” Douglas Harnden, 6 feet 4 inches tall, wanted to know where it came from and how his girls got it.
“I carried it down from the loft,” I answered proudly.
He went into the barn and saw his big ladder going up to the loft. He wondered if we borrowed his ladder every day and then put it back when we were done.
“Oh, no, Dad, this is the first time. This ladder is way too heavy. We just swing over to the loft on the top of the door here and grab the post,” I blurted out.
“You what?” He looked confused, so I climbed up the haymow stairs, grabbed the door, and swung over to show him. I was a pro at it by now.
Dad went over to the door and examined the hinges. We stood silently, wondering if we were in trouble.
“Tell you what, girls, I’ll make you a deal.” We knew we had to accept whatever “deal” he offered.
“You girls can’t keep swinging on that door or you’ll loosen its hinges, and I really like that chair. How about I keep the chair and in exchange I’ll get you a ladder of your own to climb up to your fort?”
It was a great deal. We girls spent many happy hours in our fort, and Dad loved his chair.
Years later, when Dad passed away, the family all agreed that I should have his rocking chair since I had carried it down the ladder. When I sit in it even now, it feels like a hug from my father.