From the ashes we will rise

The morning of January 22 2013 started as an ordinary day. I woke up, washed my face, ate my oatmeal and headed to class.

After Sociology 219, I noticed I had missed a call from my Mom. When I called her back, it turned out to be one of those phone calls that I’ve become all too familiar with over the past few months. They all start like this: “Macy, I have some really bad news.”

Instantly I stopped walking in the middle of a crowded sidewalk, my heart hammering in my chest.Barn fire

The news? That our barn is burning down. Our barn. The barn I was raised in.

At that moment,  I started bawling.

I was raised on the lime-covered walk of that barn. From sitting in a carseat on the walk to coming home from college to milk our cows on that walk.

Memories are filled to the brim inside those walls. Luckily, we won’t lose those memories.

From scraped up knees, to fractured wrists, to broken ribs and passing out, it all happened under that roof.

It was beside my Dad in our barn that I first learned to milk a cow. It was in the calf barn that I first learned to clip a calf. It was those 5:00 a.m. mornings before school that I learned how to manage my time. It was doing chores with my sisters that I learned how to disagree. It was in the straw wagon that I learned perseverance. It was in the milkhouse that I learned that sound carries when you belt it out. It was in the maternity pen that I learned I should never become a vet. It was in the gutters that I learned how to stand back up and do your best to shake it off when crap happens. It was in the mangers that I learned drinking cups for cows are drinking cups for humans. And it was through my Dad and my Grandpa that I learned the true meaning of life; never giving up.

Memories we'll forever keepLife is rough. I can certainly tell you that. Somehow, we’ll survive this hell that we’re currently in. I don’t know how, but we will.

If we were to give up, what does that leave us with?

Giving up should have been ages ago when the cows were out at 2:00 a.m. or when it’s 100 degrees and we’re unloading straw in the blazing sun or when Dad broke his ribs and I played farmer, or when the barn cleaner broke for the third time on Christmas morning in -30 degree temps.

But we didn’t give up then, and we sure as hell can’t now.

That barn taught us family, love, hard work and passion. Though just ashes remain, that passion and those memories are truly forever.

Thank you to everyone who helped us out in the frigid weather. We couldn’t have done it without you.

39 thoughts on “From the ashes we will rise

  1. Stay strong Macy! The year I was in third grade, the day after Christmas, my family’s dairy barns burned. It was ten degrees that day and we had almost waist-deep snow on the ground. We lost all our youngstock and dry cows, plus five older cows in the milk barn and three-quarters of our hay crop. Somehow my mom saved my sister’s show calf and the rest of the milking herd including a week-old-calf. My family, like yours, didn’t give up. We rebuilt. It was a long hard journey, but one well-worth the effort. Revel in your memories of the old barn, and let that fuel your rebuilding process.

  2. Macy, I just wanted to send my sincere heartfelt ‘I’m sorry’ to you and your family. I truly know how hard this is and how gut wrenching it is for it happened on my family farm three years ago too. I also watched as my childhood went up in flames and how terrible it was. I know you don’t know me very well and I also know nothing anyone says helps to ease the pain, but know it does get easier, as does anything, with time. It will be hard and lots of time and energy, stay strong and stay warm, you are all in my thoughts and prayers.

  3. I am not a farmer, but have farmers in the family. I can’t imagine the pain and sorrow you must feel with this loss. So sorry to read this about you and your family but we will pray for healing and rebuilding for you!

  4. Sorry for your loss. We lost our home to a fire on 2/24/12. I had toast in the toaster and looked out and the cows were loose. Being home alone I rushed out leaving the toast in the toaster. It never popped up. You will expierience many ups and downs in the next few months. I can tell you that it will get easier as time goes on. Good Luck to you and your family!!!

  5. Never give up. I was a senior in high school Dec 19th with wind chills -70 below we lost our dairy barn and all our cattle. My Dad did give up and we never rebuilt and eventually lost the farm. So many memories came back to me reading your story and how my life was also shaped by what I learned on the limed driveway of the barn.

  6. Sorry to hear of this, saw it on the news this morning but didn’t hear who’s farm it was. I was on facebook and my cousin had a post that took me here and then i found out that it was your family farm. Macy do tell mom and dad that i’m sorry to hear about this and that the family is in our prayers. Your writing was a wonderful fond memory of how you grew up in that barn from day one to just this past break. Hang in there and remember that the creator will help rebuild and get the family through yet another bump in the road. Take care and remember that God is with you every step of the way. God bless your family Macy and take care.

  7. What a nice story! Any of us farm girls feel the same way about our lives on the farm in the barn. Many memories. God be with you all you have been through so much .

  8. We have never met, nor do I know where you live, but as fellow dairy farmers, I am truly sorry. We, too, have been struck by fire in our barns. We lost all of our young animals, most of our dry cows and some milkers. My thoughts are with you and your family.

    • I am very sorry to hear of your loss. Back in 1981, I received a phone call from a cousin saying our family barn was on fire. It was a very sad day indeed. I too recalled all the memories of growing up in that barn! Luckily, no animals were lost in the blaze. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  9. We also have never met. I have lived through this, survived through this and thrived through this. We lost our farmhouse to a fire four years ago. As I right this I have vivid memories of that day, of the shock and the terrible smell from the charred remains. You are so correct when you say you will rise from the ashes. I never could imagine myself living in anything but an old farmhouse. We rebuilt and I am grateful to be living in a new house. Perseverance is one of my favorite words and it is what your story tells a tale of and what your family surely will do. Prayers to you as you travel down this road.

  10. It was 20 years ago Jan 20th that we lost our barn and entire herd in a fire. It was a life changing event, that to this day, is still litteraly burnt into my mind.I know what your family is going through,but take these days and cherish what you have, family, friends, memories.

  11. So sad to hear. It has been many years since I was on our dairy farm in Northwestern, Wisconsin. While I am no longer on the farm, I will always be a farm girl at heart. I remember when we had 20 cows fall through the ice on our pond and drown. That was hard and really set us back. May God bless you as you rebuild.

  12. Wow! This was an amazingly written and also hit home for me. I, too, am a farm girl and I can relate to this terrible event. My heart goes out to you and your family!

  13. I grew up on a dairy barn and back in Sept 12,2006 we lost our barn to a fire. It started in the north part of the barn where the oats where stored and then spread quickly to the south where the hay and straw was kept. Plus my dad had his tractor in the part of the barn where he just filled the gas tank up an hour before the fire. Then the fire went to the west and burn everything in that area and went back north. The fire department was able to save rest of the barn including the feed room. We had some cattle in the lower part of the building which we where able to get out and move somewhere safe. Watching that barn burn was major heartache because I remember doing chores there, which includes milking, take care of baby calves, have my 4-H animals in there, etc etc. So my heart goes out to your family on your barn.

  14. So sorry to hear of your loss. My family lost our dairy barn and milking herd in a fire in November 2012. Our 3 daughters grew up like you did, in the barn. Time does heal! We are humbled by all of the support from our local farming community. Though the barn and cows are gone, we will always have the memories, nothing can take that from you! God’s blessings as your family rebuilds your lives!

  15. I am so sorry for your loss!! You are an amazing woman and that is an amazing story! I pray that you can keep that strength of yours why you and your family struggles through this trying time! It sounds like you have had other trying times and made it through those, so keep your faith and your strength, and know that there are a lot of people praying for you and your family right now!

  16. Macy, I am so sorry for your loss. Your story is so beautifully written and and so full of your cherished memories. And it’s full of hope…thank you for sharing it.

  17. Sending prayers to you and your family. Believe, have faith. Everyone who cares about you will be standing right behind you as you move through this difficult time.

  18. I have lived in Verona for 55 years and when I heard the barn was on fire I felt terrible and with all that has been for your family in the very short time my heart goes out to all of you.

  19. So sorry to hear of your family’s loss. Yes, your family will have some big decisions ahead and hard work to get back on track, but what will surprise you the most is how people of Agriculture come together in adversity and lift you up. As you can tell by the previous posts, many of us (including myself) have endured a fire or two at our farms…it is more common than you may have realized. Build from the spirit of the people around you…that’s what farming is all about…we don’t just feed our bellies, we feed our hearts and souls.

    I met you when you were the reigning Dane County Fairest of the Fair. Someone reposted your story on Facebook…keep writing and sharing your heart-warming side of farming. I hope our paths cross this fair season.

  20. We are so fortunate that God provided our wee brains with the ability to remember. Our family also lost the barn to a fire several years after my parents moved off of the family farm. reading your story brought back all those wonderful memories of being a farm kid. My prayers are with you. I suggest keeping a journal for years down the road.

  21. Oh Macy, you are a beautiful writer! Sparked memories for all of us farm girls! So sorry about the fire, still so new & fresh. The whole town is still in shock yet there for your family to lend a helping hand anyway they possibly can. Blessed are we who grew up in such an awesome place! My prayers to you and family Macy.

  22. This hit home. We lost our barn this past July. We r now moved into our new barn and things r as close to normal as they will ever b. It is very different to walk outside to check the calving pen and the smell of smoke sends u into a panic. There r still reminders every day that trigger memories and tears. The hurt lessens a little every day but it will never b the same. U too will survive and things will get easier. Hold on to the memories but cherish the new memories to come. It takes many tears and sometimes unrelenting questions to get u thru the next several months. My prayers r with u and ur family. Remember the dairy industry and rural community r the most outstanding and supportive people u will encounter. Count on those people to help u. May u remain strong for what lies ahead.

  23. I’m so sorry. I’m a farm girl, too, and this is just heart-breaking. My mom was 18 and working in Madison when she got the call that their barn was burning, the same summer their dad died from cancer. She kept working to take money home and helped at home on the weekends, and her 19 year old brother, their 4 younger siblings and my grandma kept the farm going. That was almost 49 years ago. Like them, you will never forget, but you will survive. Yes, you will hold all those memories close to your heart, while making new ones. God bless you and your family. I’ll be praying for you.

  24. My heart goes out to you. It will be four years on June 2nd that we suffered a barn fire. It changes everything. I read your story and feel for you and your family. You are right – you need your family now. I remember standing in the pasture after arriving on scene and feeling like my childhood was burning. The essence of who we are is in the walls and tangibles of where we spend our time…
    I pray for you and your family and for all the other farm families that have gone through this. We need each other in order to help guide us through the pain. I wish you the very best. God Bless you and your family.

  25. I am sorry to hear about your loss. We lost our barn January 1, 2009. Not a day goes by that my family and I don’t miss the barn and all the livestock in it but you learn to carry on. You learn that those memories is something nobody can take away from you. You learn that you will use all the life skills you learned in your barn to start over. The key is to stay optimistic.. Good things can come from a horrible situation. Keep your head up and you will rise above the ashes.

  26. All those lessons that you learned in that barn, they got you ready for the challenge ahead! Grieve….but then get up and get at it. That is what farmers do! I’m praying for your family, knowing that God has a plan and that there is nothing that can’t be overcome with time, grace, hard work, and the ingenuity of a farm family.

  27. Macy, please know that our thoughts are with you and your family at this most difficult time. You have an AMAZING family – stay strong and take care.

  28. Macy, so sorry to hear about this! I, too, had heard that a barn burnt, but didn’t know whose it was. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family

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  30. Dear Macy, While cleaning my desk, I found a copy of your “Ashes” article from the Country Today. Your memories and lessons of growing up on a dairy farm are so so true. Having grown up and raised kids on our farm, your very well-written article is a keeper that still brings tears and laughter to me as I remember our own lessons. Thank You!
    We travel your road occasionally and have kept track of the progress in the aftermath of the fire. Our best to you and your family.
    Judy Madigan

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