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A Distant Mirror

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They still grace the back roads of 21 Country, each of these mortise and tenoned giants still noble even in ruin. And each has a story to tell if you listen carefully and look closely.

In the southeastern reaches of Huntington County stands a barn with a colorful story to tell. Among its lofts and stables is a message about life on the farm before automobiles and electricity. It's a mural of a homestead painted more than a hundred years ago by 12 year Phillip Wall, a farm boy who filled his time between chores by sketching and drawing on anything he could find. the painting is of his home how it looked in the 1890's

“A family setting,” says Phyllis Guerin. “They had their well and they were proud of their buildings and the way they lived.”

Phyllis Guerin is Philip Walls daughter and though Phillip died in 1950 his mural speaks volumes about rural life at the turn of the century when wind powered the water pumps and fences boasted the pride of their builders with decorated posts. It's a message with a special meaning for Phillips Guerin.

“My dad and I were great pals,” she explains, “ 'cause my mother wasn't too well and I from a little tyke always went with my dad everywhere.”

It's a message that speaks to Phillip Walls descendants too, his granddaughter and great grandchildren who never knew him but are able to touch a corner of his life now because a century ago a little boy painted a picture by candlelight which shines to this day in 21 country.

Eric Olson

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