Story by Michael Taylor in Gulfport, FL
Built during the first year we came to the Quarter Circle A Ranch in 1958, the barn dwarfed all the other structures on the ranch. The ranch’s owners, the Colvin family, lived in a definitive Florida Cracker home raised off the ground three feet by stone pilings and featured a seldom-used fireplace, four bedrooms, and a huge screened-in porch facing south under a long sloping tin roof.
The Blackstone residence was a simple Florida Cracker farmhouse with a small front porch and three bedrooms flanked by a free standing carport. Two ranch-hand houses, modest two bedroom concrete block houses with shingled roofs, could fit under one end of the barn. Even the windmill in the center of the pasture in which all the buildings sat was not as tall as the peak of the barn’s tin roof, which shimmered in the sun from a couple of miles away in any direction. In thunderstorms, the pounding rain and rippling echoes of thunder reverberated within the barn in ways that rivaled crashing crescendoes of great classical music symphonies.
The barn was the site of enlightening moments during my childhood. Tasks, animals, people, and simple observations offered lessons I did not receive in a classroom, at home, or by reading on my own. Some were physically painful; others were entertaining; still others were emotional roller-coaster rides. The barn offered a sanctuary during storms, a place to get out of the Florida heat, and an environment to commune with ranch animals, both domestic and wild. All incorporated the Floridian ranch life experience to foster my early perceptions about what life would hold for me as I journeyed through the years.