This year the Palouse took on an even more home-like feel for me. Reconnecting with farmers and listening to their family stories, accomplishments and struggles really appeals to me. I met up with several of my long-time farmer friends this year but in addition to meeting up with them I also got to meet a few more members of their families and also some barn owners that I hadn’t met before.
The old schoolhouse took a real beating this winter—not from snow but from wind and rain, they had plenty of rain in April and the owner thinks that was the reason for the porch to give way from the building. My group arrived on June 2nd for our first visit. The porch was leaning quite a lot; in fact the entire building was almost melting into the ground. I had a bad feeling about the schoolhouse when I left and made an unprecedented second visit to the site the next day with my group. Sure enough the porch had fallen. After speaking with the owner I found out it had happened between 9:00am and 12:00noon on June 3rd, right before my group’s second visit.
It was a very sad day for me as I have always adored that old schoolhouse from the very first photo I saw of it. The Palouse region will never be the same for me. In addition to the old schoolhouse, photographers also lost the old homestead near the base of Steptoe. I was shocked to see a completely grassed over area where the home once sat. It was in poor shape but that was the appeal.
During my time in the Palouse region I also noticed that a few smaller barns were now piles of rubble. However, the one barn that I fondly refer to as the “crashed down barn” was remarkably still standing. Of all the barns and structures in the Palouse that was the one that I truly thought would be a goner. Nope-still standing.
This year I finally met the owner of the 1916 barn in Idaho that I usually photograph, Kathlyn Helm. She was just driving by as my group was standing in the road during a brief rain shower. The rain made the colors of the barn pop. Turns out the barn was built in 1916 by the Cunningham family and they built a homestead across the street from the barn, it burned down in 1917 and the family packed it in and moved to California. The Helm family (Kathlyn’s grandfather) bought the farm and Kathlyn and her family still own it. She was kind enough to tell me the story and I promised a photo-already sent J .
I also had the chance to interview and speak at great lengths to the family that owns the round barn that I visit every year. The round barn was built in either 1915 or 1916, the best the family could figure. Lloyd DeChenne was the first family member I met and I met him through a friend. He was kind enough to talk to me over the years about the barn and the beautiful box car that his father built. This year I got to meet with his two brothers, one sister and their spouses. I found out that Lloyd was the oldest and that Dale was the family rep. Dale spoke eloquently about his grandfather Max TW (Theodore William) Steinke 1885-1963 and the barn as he told me the story of how the barn came to be. I recorded some of the conversation to share with everyone as soon as I can get it to load I will add it here. I also took a photo of the family in front of the barn for a keepsake for both them and me.
PS-Max Steinke designed and built the barn. Max and Ida Steinke had 3 kids, Elmo, Martha and Maxine. Martha married Charles Dechenne. They had 4 kids, Lloyd, Dale, Donald and Betty. Dechenne-Steinke, LLC owns and operates the business where the barn sits.
I also found out that the tree I fondly call “Denise’s Tree” (ya, I’ve taken some slack for that over the years for calling it my tree) is a Black Locust tree, thanks to Donna Speranzini, one of my participants on the trip for the ID.
All in all, we had a fabulous visit in the Palouse. All of my clients were kind and helpful with each other and the trip was fun and action packed!! I loved every minute of it and will be doing another one next year in the beginning of June, if you are interested in signing up please CLICK HERE. Below are some of my faves.
On a side note, please remember that these barns and fields are owned by hard working, kind people that deserve our respect. Please ask for permission when photographing, don’t step in the fields for any reason as these are cash crops. I haven’t had many folks say no and they really appreciate your asking.