Barn fire

While human lives are rarely lost in barn fires around here, animals often do perish. For a farmer, this is a terrible experience–not simply because of the financial impact but because of the emotional trauma. We develop an emotional attachment to the animals we nurture and we feel deeply responsible for their well-being. I have always operated under this mantra: feed the animals before you sit down to your own dinner–in both the literal and figurative senses.

Sadly, barn fires often bring total loss. Barns are tinderboxes and most farms are located far from volunteer fire departments. This was certainly the case with my barn fire in 1998. A neighbor who lives about a mile down the road noticed smoke early one weekday afternoon. My husband and I were both at work, and our son was at school. By the time I made it home–perhaps a half hour after the fire department arrived–the barn was gone and we had lost five of our beautiful and beloved draft horses. A dozen years later, I still think about those creatures. On a less terrible level, I also still find myself looking for tools and equipment I think I’ve misplaced and then realize were destroyed in the barn fire.

Clif and Marie Cook, whose farm is located outside of Heuvelton, lost their barn and hundreds of chickens, some turkeys, pigs and cows in a fire earlier this week. The Cooks are active in the region’s farmers’ markets and local food effort. If you’d like to know how to contact them–with words of encouragement or a contribution to help out with their uninsured livestock losses–email me directly and I’ll put you in touch. ellen@ncpr.org

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2 Responses to “Barn fire”

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  1. marquil says:

    Ellen,
    This post resonates. I have often wondered why there is no familiar, precise name for the sort of guilt that attends the unintended loss of livestock or pets. The closest google comes to a related concept is “caregiver guilt,” which seems more associated with person-to-person relationships. I think guilt following the loss of an animal—particularly ones we rely on for their eggs, their dairy, or their fleeces—bears with it an added dimension, bordering perhaps on religion-based guilt complexes. Shepherd guilt might come pretty close to covering it.

  2. Ellen Rocco says:

    Yes, Marquil. I think shepherd guilt is close. We bring animals into our lives with the unspoken, but nonetheless certain, responsibility for them–not unlike children who are still under our care.