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  • Writer's pictureKaren L Kurtz

The Tack Shed

Updated: May 20

It was the best gift ever. For a brief

moment in its existence, the tack shed was mine.

Although the small, white building behind our barn was called the “tack shed,” for as long as I could remember it had been filled with junk. We had tack―saddles and bridles for the ponies and a harness for Billy to pull the cart―but those were stored in the tack room in our basement. The tack shed perhaps had originally been built for that purpose, but instead it served as a kind of purgatorial place where stuff Dad bought at auctions had to go until some redemptive use could be found.

One evening Dad casually mentioned at the supper table that we needed to clean out the tack shed because he was going to move it to the spot where the milk wagon sat. Our farm had a lot of relics sitting around the property―rusty farm implements from the “horse-drawn” days, wooden barrels, wagon wheels, a pony cart that still worked, and even my grandpa’s old DeSoto. The antique milk wagon cab sat on the sand by our swing set and served as a playhouse. When its floorboards rotted out and the yellow jackets nesting under it were stinging us whenever we played in it, our playhouse was sentenced to the burn pile.

Dad may have told us his plans for the tack shed, but I didn’t hear that part. In my mind, moving it to our play area opened up all kinds of possibilities. That was when the idea came to me with such big energy I knew for certain how the shed should be used. I was almost ten and had imagined myself as a writer even before that. What writer has not yearned for the perfect space for writing?

I carefully planned my argument, and the next morning Dad listened to why I desperately needed the tack shed. I don’t think I had ever pleaded for something for myself before. He responded with uncharacteristic deference for his youngest daughter’s idea. He told me if I cleaned out the tack shed, I could use it for the summer.

I went right to work hauling junk out of the little building, and a couple of days later the hut was raised onto skids and pulled by the tractor to our back yard. I scrubbed the walls and floors clean with Spic ‘n Span. Mom helped me carry our little oak desk and chair to my writing hut, and she found some rag rugs for the floor. She helped me to nail a wooden shelf to the wall where my Nancy Drew collection sat. The writer in me was unleashed, and notebooks full of stories and poems were penned that summer. Apparently, none for posterity.

Sometime that fall Dad came home from an auction and needed the tack shed for storage once again. I remember being heartbroken and probably spent most of my life looking for the perfect writing hut again. When I taught in the century-old school in Ashley, Indiana, I placed a big refrigerator box in the far corner of the classroom where my nine- and ten-year-olds could go to write when they desperately needed a hut of their own. Wonderful stories came out of that space. I’ve always known, if given the right space, creativity will flow naturally.

I dug through old albums the other day to find photos of the tack shed. I recalled that years after I’d moved away from home the ponies were sold, and my parents had bought a couple of riding horses. The little white hut had been moved to a new location near the stable. It was a bona fide tack shed, now, smelling of leather and horse sweat when you stepped inside.

I will always be grateful for that one summer when it was mine.

~K L Kurtz


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Lovely writing,


Thank you, Mary!

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