A step back in time in Aberdeen results in barn raising tradition

ABERDEEN – Modern day times are fast and time is one of our most valuable commodities. In this premise, younger generations haven’t honed some of the practices their grandparents and great-grandparents kept on their lists of regular responsibilities. Knitting quilts has given way to dropping $25 for a new comforter. Growing a garden and canning leftover vegetables for winter is such a drawn out process compared to just driving to the grocery store.

While these practices still hold true to Mennonite communities, even opportunities for some traditions once common in their way of life don’t come around as often.

“In this fast pace of life, it’s a lot less stressful to hire a carpenter and his crew. With a big group doing it, it takes a lot more coordination and barn raising is getting to be a less known practice,” said John Luker, who just had between 50 and 60 family and friends help out to build the bulk of a 5,000 square foot barn in one day.

When Luker decided to build the barn for hay storage, to raise smaller calves into yearlings and teach his children about farming for survival and how there’s more to life than just making money, he contacted family in different states and individuals in each state coordinated the efforts of building a team of workers.

Local Mennonites from the Lee and Luker families worked side-by-side with Amish people bussed in from communities in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Kentucky.

“Barn raisings are more for the chance of having family get-togethers. It’s amazing what working together like this does for unity,” Luker said.

Luker remembers his grandfather talking about when dozens of people would come together to build a barn. Raising a barn or building a house used to be a community’s gift to newlyweds. Barns were also the first structure built on a new homestead as it was the lifeblood for the family’s farming needs.

To speed the process along, Luker had worked in the previous weeks with friends to lay his barn’s concrete foundation, set poles and designated the loft sections not only to stabilize the structure, but also as a safety measure in the event someone fell from the roof so the next level would break the fall.

The work took a little bit at a time to get ready for the main construction day because once it came, rescheduling would have been a difficult task. Had the day been a rain out, Luker and his family had already decided to use the opportunity to have a family gathering instead.

As if the sky bottled up the rain for a few hours, the bulk of the day of the barn raising was relatively calm as in comparison to the almost double digits of inches worth of rain our region received during the past couple of weeks.

“It was the Lord’s will it went through the way it did. Just as we were wrapping up for the day, the bad rains came. It was like someone said, ‘The Lord was watching and waiting for us to finish before He let it start to rain again.’ We were also blessed no one suffered from any major injury. There was only one person who had a minor injury to his hand,” Luker said.

After fueling up on grits, sausage, rice, sausage gravy and scrambled eggs, the crew began at 8:30 a.m. and by 6 p.m., the barn , for the most part, was a done deal.

Luker, his brother, Frank, and some of their local relatives plan to finish the little bit of trim work left on the barn in the near future.

“As we saw the rains moving in, we had to start cutting a few corners to get it completed,” Luker said.

With the barn being built at Luker’s Highway 45 residence, next door to his business, Matubby Creek Machine Works, the day was filled with spectators pulling over to watch the progress and the sounds of car horns resonating at 70 miles per hour.

“A barn raising is something most people really don’t see that much, especially on the side of a highway. Most communities where someone would find this are tucked away far from any highway,” Luker said.

Luker has nothing but good words to say about the support he received from everyone who participated.

“The group of 22 men and teenagers from Pennsylvania made a 1,000 mile trip one-way. The men and womenfolk from Illinois and Kentucky made a long journey as well. No matter if someone’s job was cooking, moving coolers or putting up tin on the roof of the barn, I’m grateful for everything they did. As I told each of them, if they ever needed my help in the north, I would do whatever I could to repay the favor and get as many people from around here to help,” Luker said.

In addition to a regular supper the night before and the breakfast and lunch the day of the barn raising, the day’s events capped off with a fish fry that night. Lee Pavilion on Egypt Road and Cedar Creek Volunteer Fire Department donated the tables and chairs and for that, Luker would like to extend his appreciation.

Ray Van Dusen/Monroe Journal