Class reunion spurs barn makeover
White Owl Barn was brush-painted
Bruce Schmidt, 68, spent a lot of time, labor, and money to rejuvenate a large barn on his farmstead northwest of Goessel. Thanks to his efforts, the stately 1926 structure has been preserved for future generations.
The barn had horse stalls, milk cow stanchions, and feed bins, along with a huge hayloft, all made with hard yellow pine. The haymow still contains a basketball goal, indicating many a scrimmage took place up there years before the Schmidts took it over.
Schmidt said he was spurred to action when, about 16 months ago, a high school classmate suggested the barn be used for their 50th class reunion, which took place last October.
He got busy. He cleaned out the barn and sanded and power-washed the walls. A concrete floor was poured, and a new roof and new wiring were installed.
Schmidt repainted the barn using a brush and a hydraulic lift.
“It got pretty precarious way up there at the tip,” he said. “I held on to the barn roof while I painted.”
His wife, Eileen, planned the interior with antique décor and furnishings such as numerous tables, chairs, benches, and picnic tables. Some items were from relatives, but many came from Bearly Makin’ It Antiques in Marion.
“Those guys made a lot of money off us,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt landscaped the area around the barn, and poured cement for a concrete patio on one side. Two long feed troughs positioned along the west wall are planted to flowers during the growing season.
When Schmidt cleaned up the haymow, he discovered that a white owl was living there. He figures all the noise and commotion that came with the renovation drove the owl away. However, its memory is etched forever in the name they gave to the barn, White Owl Barn.
The Schmidts moved to their 40-acre farm two years after their marriage in 1969. Schmidt farmed with his father, Harvey, and helped him operate a nearby dairy. They expanded from 45 to 160 cows and used the barn to raise replacement heifers.
After the dairy was discontinued, the barn sat empty and unused, but no more.
“I started working on it, and one thing led to another,” Schmidt said. “I got a lot of satisfaction out of making it useful.”
In addition to the class reunion, the barn has been used for several family get-togethers. The Schmidts have no plans to offer it to other groups.
As if restoring a big barn was not enough, Schmidt also has restored a large chicken barn with red paint and white-trimmed windows and doors, just like the barn. The chicken barn is heated, so it can be used for family gatherings when the weather is cold.
The farmstead has a modern house built in 1979. A creek flows past the farmyard on the east side. Schmidt put rocks along the banks to prevent soil erosion.
“I’ll never get my money out of this,” he said, “but we had the cash, and we enjoyed doing it. We hope to pass it on someday for someone else to enjoy.”
Schmidt works on a custom-harvest crew during the growing season. Work starts in Texas next week. His wife works at Excel Industries. They are members of Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church.