Angle of Repose


When I was a little girl, everything had a place to rest.  The pigs and the cows had the barn.  The baby chicks had the brooder house, and the chickens the coop.  Hay went in the loft, grain in the butler bin, corn in the crib.  Tools belonged in the tool shed, and bikes went in the garage.  Barn clothes went on a hook on the back porch, and school coats hung in the closet.  Everyone had their own drawer for clothes, and shoes went under the bed.   Books had a special place of honor in a big walnut bookcase that spanned one whole wall of the dining room.

A couple of times in the summer, we put hay in the loft; two good cuttings.  That’s when Dad got high school boys to come over and help out; and us girls showed them how to  throw bales of hay around.  Later, at the end of summer, Dad borrowed a combine and got the oats in.  Oats went in the Butler Bin with an auger that sucked those kernels right up to the top of the Butler Bin like nobody’s business, leaving behind nothing but a half bucket of kernels and a cloud of dust.  Even little kids can help with oats, ’cause all you need to do is shove the oats over to the auger and it does all the work.    My friend Annette asked me how come I called it a Butler Bin.  “That’s the name of it,”  I said.  “It’s right there written on the side.”  She just called it a grain bin.

After the oats were in, the shafts got cut and dried for straw. Straw got put away, same as hay except on the other side of the barn.  Straw bales were light as a feather, ’cause of the hollow shafts.  Straw got put up in the loft like hay, but on the far side, so it was clear where to go for what and how much was left at any one time, just in case we ran short.  We never did run short of hay or straw.

Dad asked Mr. T to come over and help with the corn-picker.  Mr. T was a full-time farmer, so he had all kinds of big equipment.  That stuff was way too expensive for my family, so we borrowed and let others borrow back.  Everybody stayed in the yard during corn-picking. Mom knew a boy with no legs ’cause he went out to help his dad, and got sucked right up into the corn-picker and the dad had no idea until he saw the legs up there with the ears of corn.  That scared the begeezers out of me; nobody had to tell me to stay out of the field.  I waited up by the tool-shed until Dad brought the corn up to dump in the crib.  Loren-dee-dee-bopper  was going to be a corn-picker when he grew up; and he was going to have hair on his chest ’cause he l-o-v-e, loved spinach and ate it up like a grown man.  Anyhow, that’s what he told anyone who would listen and even those of us who heard it before and got tired of listening.

I learned about the angle of repose when I grew up and went away to college.  It’s the slope that is formed when things come to rest.   Calculating the angle of repose helps engineers design buildings like Butler bins, so grain can be loaded right up to the tippy-top.  It’s really just meant for granular substances like oats and corn, and salt and resin beads, but I like to think of it as the natural place where all things come to rest.  Like the chicks in the brooder house, the hay in the loft, or the corn in the crib.  For me, it’s a freshly made bed or a slightly reclining chair and easy conversation with a neighbor.  Ahhh…. Now that’s the way to rest.

3 thoughts on “Angle of Repose

  1. My first thought was that if you know everything has a place, why were your things never put away when you were a little girl???
    I had a little trouble figuring out how that angle of repose entered into the picture until you related it to corn bins. I like the recliner and the friends better even though they have little to do with farming.

  2. Interesting stuff.

    Being a suburban kid, I had no idea what went into farming. Now living in a rural area where corn is popular, I am amazed at all that is done by farmers.

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