29 March 2009

Mr. Leonard's Big Round Barn

The view outside my front window this morning

I wish I had a ride that I took this weekend to share with you, but I don’t. You see, outside my window, it’s snowing.....................again. The endless winter it seems. It’s all just as well I suppose; if the weather was perfect, I would be lamenting the fact that I don’t have a bike to ride this weekend anyways.

The Kawasaki is in the shop getting some recall work done.
The 2008 KLR was discovered to have a flaw in the layout of its wiring harness causing it to wear against parts of the frame and over time, internally hemorrhage its electrons. I experienced this event on Friday. Reflecting back on the moment, I must confess that it’s rather unsettling, the sound that can come from the depths of one’s stomach, when they first smell and then observe an acrid black smoke belching from behind the gauge bezel of their love.

A frenzied removal of the windscreen revealed the source of the fault. The wiring harness leading to the Temperature gauge and Tachometer rubbed against a part of the hardware that supports the headlight/fairing assembly, cutting first through the loom and then insulation eventually exposing the copper conductor.

So there she sits this weekend, in the service bay of the local Kawasaki dealership, stripped down to her frame and gutted. The entrails of her wiring harness resting in the bottom of a recycling bin in the corner of the shop. Ughhh, I’d rather not think about it. So let’s talk about something else.

Last week, Webster’s world commented on the photo of the round barn that I currently have on the side bar of this site. While I don’t have a complete history of the barn, I do know a little about its past, and I suppose that while this brief post about the barn is not necessarily related to motorcycles, I did take that picture while I was on a ride to the seven devils area of Idaho.

What I know.

I first learned of the existence of the barn when PBS ran a small piece about it in “A Northwest Minute”.

The barn stands just east of the town of Pullman, home of Washington State University and the WSU Cougars, all of you Oregon Ducks fans out there know of the place. It was built by T.A. Leonard, a local farmer sometime between the years of 1914 and 1917.

What I thought was most interesting about its design was explained in the PBS interview with the now elderly daughter of T.A. Leonard. She explained that even though she was just a little girl at the time, she could remember her father insisted that his barn should stand out from all of the others in the area, that is also why the barn was painted green instead of the ubiquitous red; all in the interest of originality, I think I would have liked this old T.A. Leonard fellow.
Mr. Leonards Big Round Barn

I am not sure of the height but it is a twelve sided structure with a 60’ diameter.

The Daughter went on to explain in the interview that the barn has been somewhat of a celebrity in the Palouse ever since. For as long as she can remember, folks have been stopping in front of her father’s farm and taking pictures of the structure, “That’s been going on ever since it was built.” I thought of that quote while I was standing in the center of that country lane last July taking my picture of the barn.

I shot the picture at about 6:30 in the morning, I remember a dog protesting my company from somewhere on the property. I decided that out of respect, I would keep my distance and appreciate the building from the roadside. I didn’t stay long, the dog’s continued disapproval was sure to bother somebody eventually, this must happen to these folks all of the time.

The barn was restored about 10 years ago by the current owners who felt that it would be a tragedy if the aging barn were to succumb on their watch, they are good stewards, the barn is in beautiful condition.

If I remember correctly from the PBS interview, the farm was originally a dairy farm back when T.A. Leonard owned it; the current owners raise Llamas.

The average "T.A. Leonard era" farm on the Palouse

As I rode away that morning heading south for the mountains of Idaho, I thought of Mr. Leonard and his desire for his dairy barn to be different, a singular green structure that would stand out from his neighbors. I also thought of the current owners and the responsibility they felt to preserve Mr. Leonard’s building and the new peculiar looking livestock that was being raised there.

Palouse Country July, 2008

Riding south into the Palouse, observing the slant of the morning sun raking off of the rolling buttes and spilling into the valleys and the strength of its ray’s already penetrating my riding gear at this early hour, I knew that it was going to be a hot one that day.

“Llama’s on a dairy farm.” I thought of this oddity for a spell in between my early morning hunger pangs and thoughts of breakfast in Lewiston. I don’t know if T.A. Leonard had ever seen a Llama back in those days, let alone entertain that thought of raising such a peculiar breed on his farm. But in the interest of peculiarity, I believe Mr. Leonard would have approved.

Ride Well