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Pee Dee Barn Country

By Tom Poland
web posted July 10, 2015

LIFE DOWN SOUTH – Drive toward North Carolina and your route will take you into the Pee Dee. This region, named for the Pee Dee Indians, offers those struck with wanderlust beautiful views of tobacco country. Cotton country too. In fact the South Carolina Cotton Trail runs through here.
Cotton and tobacco, important cash crops over the years, had several things in common. Farming, hard work and long days, and lots of acres devoted to these two legendary plants. Of the commonalities most beautiful are the classic old barns. The Pee Dee showcases old barns and their rustic splendor. When an assignment takes me into Pee Dee Country I see flat expanses of one-time sea bottom. All that flatness drives home the meaning of sea level. And at some far-flung end of a smooth and level field stands a majestic old barn with its handsome lines and angles. Complemented by a rusting tin roof and aged wood, the barns draw the eye like few other of man’s structures.

Many old barns, no matter how stiffly they stand against the wind, they teeter and totter and in time collapse. Like a weak senior citizen they need a walker. Some, no doubt, take solace in that old Elton John song, “I’m Still Standing.” I hear that some old barns are being preserved and some have been converted into homes. Too many, though, succumb to the elements. Too many, razed by the hand of man, disappear.
Old curing barns sure are pretty and what stories they could tell.

The men that built them, what became of them? What became of the old saws and hammers? All recede into history, and the tobacco they harbored? Well, it went up in smoke. These old barns saw tractors replace mules and they persevered to remain a symbol of our agricultural past, albeit they struggle mightily. Tobacco hung from them and bales of cotton sat in them. They served their intended purpose with dignity but then times changed and like jilted lovers they found themselves abandoned. Trees fall on them. Animals gnaw away at their wood and gales curl their tin back, letting rain inside. Men salvage their wood and make tables with it. Old implements rust nearby adding to the sadness.

I’d hate to see old barns go the way of tenant homes. What a loss. I read that the director of the North Carolina Division of Historical Resources said, “North Carolina without tobacco barns would be like Holland without windmills.” That applies to South Carolina too. I hear preservationists are turning their attention to old barns. That’s good.

As for you, well, turn your steering wheel toward the Pee Dee. Drive over to Darlington, Marion, Mullins, and Nichols and wind your way through a land blessed with old barns. Take your camera. When the day arrives that all we see are moveable metal barns, you can show your grandkids the beauty classic barns brought to an old seabed.

If You Go …
Work your way to and along lesser roads ... Highway 34, Highway 41, and Highway 76, though busy will take you by some beautiful old barns.

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