Preserving an old-time barn near Tilden

Some barns across the state are falling into disrepair, but the owner of one barn in northeast Nebraska decided to save the barn on his property and use it in a new way.

We recently visited with Gene Fields, who lives west of Tilden. He decided to save his barn, which is now 101 years old. "I just decided it was going to fall down if I didn't do something with it," Fields said. "So I started fixing it up. Nine years ago, I put a roof on it, and six years ago, I started making more repairs." The barn was once used for dairy cattle, horses, and other livestock. Now, it's a great place to watch a Husker football game, or to have a gathering with family and friends.

The basement of the barn looks much like a recreation room. Fields used some old wood from a farm stockyard to line the walls. When you walk upstairs, you can see what the hay loft looked like. In this area, you'll find a bar that was built out of an oats bin. "The wood on the bar is made of old bridge planks," Fields said. "I used some wash tubs for sinks." As you look around, you notice the wood in the ceiling is exposed, and there is a balcony area with pennants on it. "My mother and family always went on vacations," Fields said. "When she went to a state, she would buy a pennant. She went to 49 states, but never made it to Hawaii. So my wife and I went to Hawaii on our 40th anniversary, and got a Hawaii pennant. So the collection now has pennants from all 50 states." In the downstairs area of the barn, Fields also has a collection of what he calls "soaky toys". They contained bubble bath back in the day, and featured some of the cartoon characters that were popular at the time on television. So during our visit to the barn, we not only saw the bones of an old barn revitalized, but we were also introduced to some interesting collections.

Fields says he's happy to have been able to save the barn on his property, and when you consider the amount of barns in Nebraska that are not looking nearly as good, it's nice to see this piece of history being preserved.