In the early days and into the early part of the 20th century, rural Americans spent a lot of time working with their neighbors on various projects. Whether it be to round up cattle that were spread out over the range or to bring in the harvest on a farm, each helped one another out, because before the age of mechanization, human and animal power was all those people had to get the job done.
One of the most unique community projects people participated in was the effort of raising (or building) a barn.
Most of us have seen movies or television shows where a group of farmers got together to help a new homesteader or someone who had lost their barn to a disaster, erect a new structure. That image is burned into many of our minds, yet it wasn't as simple or even much like television or the big screen have portrayed it.
Last week, here in Carbon County, we had the equivalent of a barn raising, but instead of putting up a building to house someone's animals, grain and hay, we put up a playground that will benefit kids who live here and visit for many years to come.
While I spent just a little time working on the project myself, there were some people who spent the whole week there, even some who would arrive well before starting time at 8 a.m. and then stick it out until they shut the lights out and made everyone go home.
I have to say the whole project has been truly amazing. Between 500-600 volunteers showed up on some of the days last week. Even the rain couldn't dampen the spirits of these volunteers. When it started to fall on Thursday afternoon a big tarp was drawn over the top of the equipment area and the workers kept on going. Some even stood in the rain to keep their work on schedule. And when the power went out for a few hours, the sounds of hammers and hand saws replaced the whir of drills, screw guns and chop saws.
But despite the hours many community members put in, there are a few people that deserve most of the credit for bringing this project about. And I want to say that with that they did more than build a playground through their efforts; they built a community spirit that many in this area thought had been lacking in the last few years.
First organizers were told by almost everyone that they could never raise the money they needed to get it going. Starting with the Kiwanis Club giving the committee enough money to begin the engineering, the cash flowed from other clubs, from businesses, from the county special service district and from individuals, some of whom gave a great deal of money to the project, put the monetary side of the playground into the realm of reality. That in itself was an amazing thing for a community this size.
Then came the actual building of the playground. The committee knew from the experiences of other towns that had put up playgrounds that the volunteer effort would be the key. Some in our area told them they would never get the help they needed. I even wondered how that would all work myself; people will donate money to things, but time is often a different matter. However, in the end the community responded handsomely.
A successful "barn raising" has always been more than what it appeared to be on the surface. The materials and organization to put a structure together just doesn't appear a few minutes before the volunteers show up. In the old days when it was barns people were putting up, the farmer who was having the structure erected would collect and put together marterials for months ahead of time. He and his family would often have to fell the trees and cut them into planks, sometimes with axes. To put all this together took many months and a lot of unseen labor went into the project well befor ethe raising. Basically the actual raising, and then the celebration afterwards was just the assembly of the big pieces, because it took a lot of human and animal labor to do it.
The same was true of the playground. The materials, tools and organization to get it up and going just didn't appear there suddenly. It took months of planning, purchasing and organizing to get everything in place.This was all done by a small group of people who had the vision and acted on it.
Old barn raisings also had two pitfalls that the playground project didn't have either.
First of all there were a lot of injuries when putting up a barn, and sometimes a fatality. Safety was not of prime importance. As I worked at the playground site on Thursday, I was reminded by a number of the volunteer supervisors about safety and the things we should be careful of. As far as I know there was only one major injury that occurred and that person got beaned by a beam and had to have some stitches in her head. Otherwise there were only a few cuts and bruises, and one girl who was hit in the head by a long board because someone was trying to carry it by themselves and didn't see her. Right then and there the policy about carrying long planks changed so that two people had to carry them, one on each end.
The other thing that happened at old time barn raisings was the party when it was finished. Sometimes the partying began before the project was done with many people beginning to drink hard stuff about mid way through the process, which probably accounted for many of the injuries that took place in those days. The party sometimes would also go on for a couple of days after the barn was up.
The party on Saturday was much tamer, but a good way for the people of this good place to celebrate their triumph in not only building a worthwhile venue, but over the negativity that a lot of people initially had about such an undertaking.
The Dino-Mine Adventure Park was a good shot in the arm for Carbon County, not only in terms of having a new recreation place for kids, but also for the fact it showed what great people we have here. In all the hours I was there either shooting photos or working I found a lot of smiles, courtesy and camaraderie.
Carbon County should well be very proud of itself for its show of community pride.