”Painting the barn red does not usually describe acts by mischievous and ill-behaved farmers.”
The Dictionary for New Farmers, 1st edition
“Painting the town red” has little to do with painting barns red even though I am certain there has been outrageous behavior in and around such agricultural structures in the past, and will likely continue to be in the future. Farmers seldom let their hair down, but when they do, they can get as excited as Arnold Ziffel (from Green Acres) in an acorn patch. Hints of misbehavior on the part of farmers can be found in expressions such as “hog wild,” “horsing around,” and “barnyard brawl.”
“Painting the town red” probably has its roots in England, although it seems its earliest recorded references have been in the United States. Interestingly enough, one of the earliest references to this phrase is used in describing the antics of a few elected legislators who drank a little too much of the local “moonshine” and were noticed by the local newspaper. I am certain that this kind of behavior would never occur today!
The phrase has also been used at least twice by newspapers to reference political celebrations by various political parties. I doubt I will see this happen in my own town, although if it did, I suspect it might be as raucous as a party thrown by Pooh with finger food and fermented honey.
One could argue, however, that “painting the town red” might also apply to activities on social media these days. No matter the political party, memes, witty phrases, puns, and graphics continue to light up the internet with a brush that certainly paints their discussions and wicked repartee in dark shades of red.
We have now embarked on the process of painting our farm barns red. It has been a tradition of old-timer farmers for years to paint their barns red and has its roots in the frugality of farmers everywhere. It turns out that red paint is cheaper than other colors of paint. Early settlers, in need of an inexpensive way to protect the wood of their barns, found a way to make cheap red paint. Mixing skimmed milk, lime, linseed oil, and red iron oxide produced a paint that helped to protect the wood and didn’t break the bank. Of course, we bought our paint at the store and red barn paint is still cheaper than any other color.
Other than a few crumbs of Little Debbie snacks that fall into the paint can here and there (which I am sure adds durability), we just use the paint as is as it comes from the store. With both of us now in our sixties, most of our days of raucous behavior are past. Our grandkids, however, might turn the other way as we give each other a paint-splattered kiss now and then.
Jeff and Kathy Crisler own a farm in Hocking County where they raise bees, berries and blisters. They are both retired and have two children and six grandchildren. Jeff wrote this column to be published in The Logan Daily News. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.