When I was a child, all of Dayton was our playground, but no place saw more action than the old barn on the Green farm. It was no longer in use, having been damaged by fire, and had been replaced by the new barn, where the cows were housed.
The old barn made a perfectly marvelous playground. We played a game that had some of the aspects of hide-and-seek, some of tag, and some of a game we made up on the fly as we went along. One of the most important skills to have in order to do well at the game was the ability to climb. In order to avoid being caught by a pursuer, you might climb to the hayloft at the north end, scurry along southward, avoiding the area where the fire had burned the floor away, climb down the silo, and seek safety in the lower level. At some point you might turn into the fox rather than the rabbit. The game had no formal stopping point; no one ever won. It just kept going until, all of a sudden, everyone had somewhere else to be.
The old barn had other uses, as well. I had an aunt who was an amateur artist, who sat up in the hayloft and painted a picture of the dam and the river valley from high above it.
One of the fascinating things in the hayloft was an old sleigh. It had belonged to previous generations, who needed it for winter traveling, but it had been stored in the hayloft, unused, for many years. My mother always wanted it brought down and refurbished, but somehow my father never got around to it. My sister and I have the sleigh bells and bring them out every year to add to the Christmas spirit.
I don’t know whether our mothers didn’t know what we were doing, or just held their tongues, but no one ever said “Don’t go up there.” There might have been an occasional “Be careful” but that’s all. It was a different, and magical, time to be a child.