It Was A Dark And Stormy Night…

Well, not really.  It was dark, but it was calm.  Unlike me.  I was scared shitless.  I wouldn’t admit it, but I was pumping adrenaline and wondering if we were all going to live through this.

Dad was carrying the double-barrelled shotgun, my new boyfriend was in the middle, and I brought up the rear with a flashlight.

This is a true story.

It all started with the old barn on our farm.  It was a creaky, drafty structure with missing boards and broken windows.  There were still some bales in the hayloft, and as kids, we often played up there.  We knew enough to avoid the rotten spots in the floor, and it was a private place where we could spend the afternoon with our Barbie dolls, or, more frequently in my case, shooting at bales with a bow and arrows.

It was great, except for the turds.

Big turds.  Man-sized turds lying in the straw over in one corner.  And there were flattened-down areas in the straw.  We’d fluffed it up the last time we played there.  We knew we hadn’t flattened it.

Sometimes when we played in the lower part of the barn, the loft creaked overhead with the rhythm of stealthy footsteps.

We never talked about it.  Sometimes we stayed out of sheer bravado, hovering wide-eyed near the door for a quick escape if necessary.  Sometimes we tacitly decided to play elsewhere.  I never mentioned this to our parents because I refused to admit I was scared.

I’d always thought my nervousness around the barn was childhood foolishness until I brought my new boyfriend home from university years later.

It was a moonless night in October.  The trees were bare skeletons and the yard was shrouded in the profound darkness and silence of a secluded prairie farm.  Inside the farmhouse, it was warm and bright.  I don’t remember how it came about, but Dad rose and loaded the shotgun.

We had a plan.

We would sneak up on the barn.  Dad would be ready with the shotgun, my boyfriend would fling the barn door open, and I would flip the switch to turn on the three remaining light bulbs in the cavernous lower level.

We crept across the yard.  Took up our silent positions outside the barn.

Dad gave the nod, swinging the shotgun up like the deadly trap-shooter he was.  The door flew open with a bang.  The lights flashed on…

And nothing was there.

I trembled my way back to the house, and the conversation remained subdued for the rest of the evening.  My boyfriend showed a certain reluctance to visit after that.

I felt validated to think Dad shared my suspicions about the barn, but I don’t know whether he actually expected to have to use the shotgun, or if it was just a convenient way to keep an upstart boyfriend in line.

I never asked him.  And he never told.

21 thoughts on “It Was A Dark And Stormy Night…

  1. Pingback: A Few From The Funny-Files | Diane Henders

  2. Eww . . “Man-sized?” EWWW

    So maybe a cougar took a huge dump in your barn after eating a man . . or, worse (in my opinion) a man mistook your barn for a toilet.

    Other than the mysterious dump thing, sounds like an ideal childhood hangout. 😉


  3. Here’s what I want to know…if Dad had suspicions something was living in the barn and was freaked out by it why did we kids have to go out there in the pitch black every night to feed the cats!?! That always scared the crap out of me! I’d get out there, in the dark, fling the tray of food onto the floor and sprint for the house as though pursued by a herd of demons! (herd…pack…gaggle…not sure what demons travel in. Whatever it is it’s BAD!) And then there were the dead kittens we’d find periodically – Dad always said the tom cats killed them…enquiring minds. Talk about childhood trauma!! 🙂


    • No kidding! Maybe it was a character-building exercise, and that’s why we’re so chock-full of… er… something… never mind.

      I still suspect it was just a clever tactic on Dad’s part. He had a subtle and creative mind. 🙂


  4. Knowing your dad so well, picturing in my mind the three of you going out to the old barn, I could live the moment. It brought back memories of the family. Did you ever find out the real story of what was up there?
    Thanks Diane


    • I never did find out for sure, but I suspect it might have been a cougar. A big cat would be capable of climbing up there. Or who knows, maybe our barn was a halfway house for hobos, but I doubt it. We were pretty far off the beaten path for that.

      Thanks for commenting!


  5. Great one, Diane. I have a daughter and plan to do something similar with a girl, a boy, and a shotgun one day. Just out of interest, what happened to the boyfriend?

    I have a confession to make – tool abuse. I broke a snap-on torque wrench. Well, not actually broke it, just the ratchet. I’m going to have to talk to those nice people and get a replacement gear head.



    • Sadly, the boyfriend was undeterred. I ended up marrying him, which turned into a long and unhappy story. (All better now, though – my current husband is a keeper.) Trust your gut with your daughter’s suitors – if you think the shotgun is warranted, you’re probably right. 🙂

      You BROKE a Snap-On?!? Words fail me. You must do penance by imagining what it’s like for us mere mortals to have to use cheapo crap tools on a regular basis. But I’ll forgive you if you snicker while you do it. You’re only human, after all.


  6. Still laughing inside of the mental image of the three of you approaching that barn like an episode somehwere between Ghostbusters and Swat. but at that precarious moment pregnant with suspense the barn door was thrown open, someone could have yelled Boo behind me and I would have gone vertical. OK, I was more than just a little bit scared too leading up to the barn…..that would have been a great lead up to a Twilight Zone movie or maybe aliens….or maybe those shadowy human-like figures…..oh wait….zombies!!! from a scientific experiment gone horribly wrong…Well thanks a lot now. Looks like I’m sleeping with the night light on thanks to you!


    • All these years later, that childhood fear is still vivid. I really don’t know why I didn’t just talk to my parents about it. I guess I’m one of those people you yell at from the theater seats at horror movies: the dumb characters in the movie that go blundering off into the dark alone when the spooky music is playing.

      Sorry about the night light…


  7. Love the story. Reminded me of the times that I was up in that old loft sliding down thwe huge haystacks…and wondering if I was indeed alone in the old structure!


    • Remember how you had to climb that ladder and poke your head up through the hole in the floor? That was the worst part: totally exposed, and you didn’t know what was up there. I always used to make lots of noise going in the door and making my way over to the ladder.

      In retrospect, it was probably more even dangerous than my childhood imaginings. I feared shadowy humans, but it was probably a cougar (which would have been perfectly capable of climbing that ladder). We kids would’ve been a tasty snack.

      Thanks for commenting!


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