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Jane Arnold, text, and Karen Cosey, photography

Old Man With Barn
photo of barn

Well, there it stands. Needs repaintin’ again. Can’t find that old-time paint now, paint the color of blood that ever’one used to paint barns ‘round here. I hear the government said there was somethin’ poison in it, we couldn’t use it no more. Have to use that fire engine red stuff instead.

Ain’t gonna to get it painted nohow, no matter what the color. I’m too old now.

Can’t climb that scaffoldin’ to get to the top. Don’t even have someone to help put up that scaffoldin’, sayin’ I could even climb it. Joe, that flu took him off last winter.

Couldn’t have a better man than Joe. Him and me, fifty years we were mates, and that flu took him off just like that. Seems like we’d be safe here. Not like those boys over there in France, in those trenches, fightin’ the Boches.

Maybe if we’d had another boy, maybe they would have left one here to help me with the farm. Seems like you need farms, no matter where the war be. People gotta eat. But even if we’d had another, what’s to say he would have stayed anyhow? Maybe he’d have run off to that city, like Joe’s kids done, workin’ in those factories. No cows rulin’ their time.

I thought when Fred came back in the spring, he’d take over the farm, find some nice girl to marry, maybe that pretty Susie moved in down the road. Now Fred’s gone, too.

God damn government takes ever’thing from a man. Even his son. Don’ know why they think a piece of metal and a stone stuck up somewhere in France is a fair trade for that old barn, but it sure ain’t. I didn’t even get him back to put him up on the hill, next to his ma.


Karen Cosey is a graphic artist who owns and operates a farm in Washington County, NY. She is working on degrees in Liberal Arts, Creative Writing, and Media Arts. She has coached youth sports, organized and taught youth enrichment programs in the arts, and photographs for SUNY-Adirondack sports teams. Her artwork and photography have been shown in local juried art shows. Her website is

Jane Arnold has been teaching English at the college level and publishing, mainly essays and memoir, for over 25 years. She is a Professor of English/Reading Specialist at a community college in upstate New York. Her recent publications include a short story in The Bitter Oleander (Fall 2013) and an essay on learning to write fiction in Writing On the Edge. The idea for “Old Man” came from a prompt from the Saratoga Springs Writers’ Flow group.


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