July 4, 2021 marks the tenth anniversary of moving the horses to The Clicker Center Barn. That was truly Independence Day for all of us. I am celebrating the anniversary by posting a series of articles I wrote in 2011 about the building of the barn. This is Part 3.
We’re Building A Barn! (written in 2011)
When I returned the pad had been transformed yet again. When I left it was mud, ten-pound mud the builders called it, meaning as you walked across it, that’s how much stuck to your boots and more. Now it was an ocean of gravel.
Next came the trucks from the lumber yard. They brought in the posts for the arena and stacks of lumber for the bracing and the arena walls. The first line of posts went in while I was again out of town. I got home to see the line, like perfect soldiers all standing at attention, planted down the back side of the arena. Each post was braced. I snapped lots of photos, marveling at the images I was seeing through the camera lens.
The following day the second line of posts went in. The holes had all been dug for them. At the far end the holes went down almost ten feet before they hit untouched ground. I tried taking pictures, but the camera couldn’t do justice to the depth of the holes.
Getting the posts up was an exercise in perseverance. They leap-frogged the posts into the holes. Three men would get under the post. To push it up they swapped places, moving closer and closer to the base of the post until it was standing upright in the hole.
That was actually the easy part. Then each pole had to be lined up and leveled. This was string day meaning the posts had to be aligned to a string that ran the length of the building. You want to set posts on still days, days when there is at most just a puff of a breeze. That’s not what we got. We got a strong spring wind blowing in the change of seasons. You could see the posts that were already set swaying at the top from the strength of the wind. That played havoc with their ability to set posts.
You had to have a few moments of stillness in which the string wasn’t moving in order to align the posts. And they had to line up. You needed to be able to stand at one end of the line, look down the row of posts and see them as only one post. There couldn’t be any sticking out. The builders explained that getting this part right made the rest of the building go smoothly, everything would line up. (Sounds like horse training.) But if you let the building get out of square here, you’d have problems with every other step in the building process, especially getting the steel on later because things wouldn’t be lining up.
So I watched them struggle with every pole. They’d check the string again and again. Check the level, check the string. It’s a hair off, I’d hear one of them say. A hair off wasn’t good enough. It meant the pole had to be shifted. And that meant wrestling with a pole that was ten feet in the ground and swaying in the wind at the top. Not fun.
They’d wrestle the pole into a slight shift, check the string, check the level, check the string, shift it again, check again, until finally they were satisfied that it wasn’t just good enough, it was exactly where it needed to be. At that point they would empty a bag of cement down into the hole and then back fill around the post with the dirt that had come out of the auger hole.
This process was repeated for every post they put in. They were hoping to get all the posts done that day, and normally that would have been very doable, but the wind finally defeated them. They had to call a halt with about a third of the posts still to go.
A heavy rain overnight was in the forecast which would have created another hardship for them to work with. At my house I heard the rain pounding on the roof through much of the night, but it missed the building site. So the following day the rest of the posts went in. Each post was braced, creating a dramatic line of triangles marching down both sides of the arena. In just three days the building had sprung out of the ground. All the time the bulldozers had been working, you couldn’t see the arena from the road, but now suddenly it was there!
With that work well in hand, the posts for the gable end at the far end of the building were set. This was an easier process. The wind had died down, and the holes were not as deep. Near the back side they were only about four feet as compared to the ten feet they had had to go down to get past the fill on the bank side.
The same diligent care was given these posts checking for level. Again off a hair was off, and they didn’t set the post until things were exactly right. When I left at the end of the day the building had three sides. The posts were all braced, and the headers were set in place at the base of the posts.
The following day they brought in their very ancient lift so they could mark the top of the posts to know the exact height for the headers. When that was done, they brought in a crane to lift the headers into place. Again, I heard “off a hair” as they checked the header against the marks on the pole.
Wayne was operating the crane. He would adjust the boom up or down, ever so slightly to bring the headers into perfect alignment. I’m glad I was there to eavesdrop on the care they gave to getting everything right. And I know this wasn’t just a show for my benefit. I could see the result of this attention to detail in the work that was done on the days when I was out of town.
The Saga of the barn going up will be continued in the next post.