The Old Farm Shed


Column by Paul Bonneau.
Exclusive to STR
I once owned a small farm that had gone to the weeds. On this farm was a shed, the kind one sees on working farms with one side open and tractors parked inside, or hay bales stacked. For some reason I woke up this morning, thinking about that shed.
When friends came over, we’d be out walking around and they’d invariably say something like, “What a neat old shed!” I’d reply, “Yeah, it is neat. Provides the illusion of protection, which is worse than no protection at all.”
What they were commenting on was the appearance. It had a framework of old round logs, some nice weathered rough-cut boards for siding, punctuated by old-fashioned windows, an attractive roof of bare aluminum, and an old apple tree nearby.
What I responded with referred to the function rather than the appearance. Being open on the side, and next to a gravel road, any breeze would pick up a load of dust, blow in there, and as the force of the wind was dissipated inside, it would drop its load of dust. There was a heavy layer of grit on everything inside, and only madness would have induced me to leave an engine open for more than a few minutes. This was a shame because what farm equipment I had was old and cranky, and in constant need of attention. The roof, having been worked on by decades of wind, managed to divert only a fraction of the rain and snow to the side, where it nourished a blackberry thicket of such magnitude that we discovered an old Jaguar sedan rotting away inside of it, when we got around to chopping the canes down. Those blackberries were a constant maintenance headache, having rooted themselves under the concrete slab where I couldn’t get to them. They even sprouted up inside, through cracks in the slab. The sides of the building were quaint, but with half-inch gaps between the old boards, and windows sporting only the occasional dirty pane of glass, so that there was little more protection than the open side provided. The quaintness disappeared after we covered the sides with some old metal roofing of assorted colors in a feeble attempt to improve the building. As to the framework, it was so old and rotted that it would have been folly to hang a chain hoist on it to lift any item that had some weight.
I could have parked my farm machinery farther from the gravel road, out in the open field. Any remaining road dust that reached it would have been blown off by the wind or washed by rain. A simple tarp could have provided enough shelter to perform maintenance. The shed was literally worse than having nothing at all. Its only true function, besides costing me maintenance time, was blocking the view of the forested hillside.
Strangely though, I continued to park things in there and attempted to get some use out of that shed, even after I realized the utter futility. It was like a habit, or some form of mental sloth, or just bull-headedness. “Damn it, it’s a shed. I should be able to get some use out of it!” Had I been rational, I would have torched the damn thing.
What struck me this morning is how similar that old shed was to the Constitution.
It’s quaint. The language is antique, and the parchment of the original is carefully preserved, sparing no taxpayer expense. It’s something that foreigners who concentrate on appearances would admire. It’s something that we, out of sheer bullheadedness or habit, continually align ourselves with mentally, despite all evidence that it no longer protects anything. It’s sole remaining function is to give cops a twinge of guilt as they plant drugs in our home, or to provide a photo-op for politicians at their swearing-in ceremony, where they utter their first of many lies in office--to protect and defend the Constitution.
We need to admit the reality, that constitutions don’t work. Like my old shed, they are worse than nothing at all, as they keep us asleep or transfixed in a fantasy world, while enabling the wasting of our lives in the gulag or in efforts to stay out of it (we can call this “life hunkered down”). We watch our freedoms erode while engaged in frantic measures to get the ruling class to conform to these constitutions, when they have no incentive whatever to do so. It’s time to move on to something else.

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Paul Bonneau's picture
Columns on STR: 106


Tony Pivetta's picture

Even as a natural-order anarchist, part of me still wants to believe the Constitution advances libertarian ideals. Politicians swear to uphold it. Doesn't it count for something when we show how they're violating it at every turn?

Then again, libertarians have been doing that since the dawn of the Republic, and Thomas Jefferson's "natural order of things" still holds: "Liberty yields and government gains grounds." Time to catch the clue bus, I suppose.

Hats off to you, Mr. Bonneau! Your analogy is all the more devastating and beautful for its simplicity.

KenK's picture

@ Pivetta
That's just sentimentality. Bonneau's right. Looks cool, but not worth damn. Forget about it and move on.