From The Ashes
History repeats itself…
My dad, Omer Ahern Sr., told me the story about the day when the family barn burned down back in 1934. He told me he was a young boy and the family was at the dinner table when his younger sister Margret noticed smoke and flames coming from the barn. By the time it was all over the family lost their 2 horses, Molly and Ned, as well as all the hay harvested that season.
That event must have caused much stress for my grandparents. I never knew my grandfather as he passed before I was born, but I do know life was tough on the Ahern’s back then as the Depression was in full swing. Work was hard to come by and the fire didn’t make things any easier. At one point, after the fire, the family moved, for a short time, as my grandfathers’ brother found work for him in Willimantic Conn.
Recently my oldest sister revealed a conversation she had with my dad many years ago. It seems there was a man who was pressuring my grandfather to sell the two horses. It was explained to her that Grandpa was not interested in selling. Ned and the farm sleigh was even used in a movie of the day, making him even more desirable. This (con)-man was believed back then by some in the family to have had something to do with the fire, a fire that just happened to take the life of two horses he could not have. Only one person who was there at that dinner table back in 1934 is still alive today. One of my dads brothers, uncle Henry...is 95 this year. He recalls running down the road to the neighbors house to call the Fire Dept, as the Ahern home had no phone. The cause of the fire will never be known. The family was never able to rebuild the barn in the same fashion. Metal parts are buried 4’ down 250’ downhill which I believe are the last remnants of the old barn.
There is a case of relevancy today, 80 years later, we find our economy again in tough shape, a recent flood disaster that destroyed thousands of our Christmas trees, and some might even say the victims again of maliciousness/selfishness and a dose of ignorance that was centered around “horses”. I’ve met some good horse people over the years. Back in the day most farmers were very knowledgable, my dad was one of them, he often talked about how he and his younger brother could ride standing up on the horses back. He talked about how he and his dad worked with the horses to harvest lumber on the farm. Not an “obsession or a sickness” to own horses “at any cost” that you sometimes hear about in people today. Years ago owning horses was an important necessity to the survival of the family farm. Horses allowed “real work” farm tasks to be done with efficiency allowing the family to spend more time doing things together.
The farm prospered and expanded under my dad’s guidance...before, during, and after his retirement from the Sullivan County Home in Unity NH, till he turned over the farm to the next generation in 1994. For the next 14 years till his death in 2008 his advice and continued help saw the farm not only double in size but lay the groundwork to ensure its continued success. It’s fitting that his last breath was taken only hours after being told important documents had been signed and the farm was now on strong footing to withstand an economic downturn. You see my dad knew another major economic meltdown would happen. He repeatedly told his kids to save and spend wisely.
The next 80 years will certainly have its share of “tests” and just as we strive today to chip away at our long range plan to see our Christmas tree farm reach its fullest potential...a place you will continue to be excited to visit year after year...we also prepare the next generation for the pitfalls of selfishness and instill virtues that will enable them to endure and persevere. We hope by sharing this family story it will help you develop an understanding for the “tests” family farms endure. Your continued support of our farm this past season is humbling-thank you.