Do you know the reason barns are red?

Have you ever seen a barn that is a different color than red? It looks really weird, doesn’t it?

Then again, maybe I’ve just been programmed to see things a certain way and anything else disturbs my sense of normalcy. Either way, I’d be OK if legislation was introduced to make it unlawful to paint a barn any other color than red.

In fact, a barn that isn’t red tends to induce the same human reaction a woman’s slip that hangs below her skirt, someone wearing a parka in 100-degree heat, or toilet paper hanging out of the back of someone’s pants.

Now, a white-colored barn can work, but not very well.

When I was in college, I worked summers at the Salveson Grain & Cattle Ranch near my hometown by the Canadian and Montana borders. Salveson’s had a big white barn that needed to be painted. So some days, I’d paint the peak of the barn by standing at the top of a fully extended aluminum ladder set in a hoisted-as-high-as- it-could-go front end loader. It was a circus act.

Would I do it today? I might for more money. But back then, it was just another day at the ranch.

Now, do you know why barns are red? Because early on there was no paint or sealers like we have today, plus, if there was, they were expensive. So farmers used to coat their barn wood in linseed oil and it just so happens that the linseed oil, which came from the flax plants that they grew, was an orange/red color.

Sometimes they’d also add things like milk, lime and ferrous oxide or rust to the paint because it was plentiful and it killed fungi and mosses that might grow.

By the late 19th century, mass-produced paints made with chemical pigments became available and red was the least expensive color. So red remained the most popular choice for use on barns, except for a brief period when whitewash was less expensive and that’s when white barns started popping up.

Whatever the case, barns hold a special place in my heart, especially the hayloft where we’d play basketball in the winter when we were kids.

Of course, the ball wouldn’t bounce all that well on the barn wood floor, but who cared. And it could be quite chilly but our body heat warmed things up quickly.

Now you may not know who Bob Feller was, but he was a 17-year-old who went straight from high school to major league baseball.

He became the first pitcher to win 24 games before the age of 21, threw three no-hitters, 12 one-hitters and he helped the Cleveland Indians win the World Series in 1948.

Feller used to say that that his father kept him busy from dawn to dusk when he was a kid. When he wasn’t pitching hay, hauling corn or running a tractor, he was tossing a baseball into his dad’s mitt behind the barn.

Feller added that, if all parents raised kids by his dad’s rules today, juvenile delinquency would be cut in half in a year’s time.

So, in a nutshell, you need to get a barn and have your kids throw baseballs at you.

Kevin Holten is the president of the North Dakota Cowboy Association and executive producer of "Special Cowboy Moments" on RFD-TV.

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