Couple builds old-fashioned wooden barn

Monday, October 9, 2006

Betsy Rigdon and her husband, John, knew the benefits of a modern, new metal-sided pole barn.

They're less expensive. They don't rot or get pesky termites that could devastate a structure. And they're obviously far less susceptible to the destructive nature of fire.

But, at least as far as the Rigdons are concerned, it's hard for practicality to win over sentiment.

So when the Cape Girardeau couple were considering options for a new barn for Betsy's half Belgian-draft, half quarter-horse, Chance, they opted for good old-fashioned wood.

"You just don't see them anymore," said Betsy, a lifelong horse rider and riding instructor for children and adults with disabilities. "A wood barn reaches back into the old way of doing things."

So when the Rigdons saw a newspaper article lauding the resurgence of post-and-beam barns made from pure, ponderosa pines, they were interested. They investigated the barns, even going to a home and garden show in Kansas City where such barns would be on display.

The Rigdons hired Mark Stuart Construction Co. to put up the barn from a special kit on 14 acres they bought in northern Cape Girardeau County near Old Appleton. Stuart and his crew started the project in July with two tractor-trailers full of lumber and expect to have the barn completed by the end of this month.

The two-man crew started with several bents, which are 10-inch timbers bolted together for the frame. The bents are long poles on the sides, joined with crossbeams and bracing to inner support poles.

In their version of a barn raising, the sides aren't raised with a group of men and rope, but cranes, Stuart said, adding he had never built a barn before.

"Nobody builds these anymore," he said. "I guess price has something to do with it."

An average price for building such a barn, with labor and concrete included, runs about $85,000, while metal barns are considerably less expensive.

But when the work is done, the Rigdons will have a nice wooden barn with two levels -- a lower level for three horses and an upper level for a hay loft and some extra space with windows.

And for Betsy Rigdon, there's the sentimental side of it, too. Before she and her husband moved away, both were from the Cape Girardeau area. Betsy lived in town, but she remembers long weeks during the summer and many weekends on her grandparents' farm.

"For us, we hope it will be a getaway," she said. "A place we'll enjoy. And my husband, he plans to pull up a chair to this window and just sit and look out at the countryside."

smoyers@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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