What's in your barn? : When Ray Tryon tried out horses ...


Editor's note: Berkshire County is filled with barns, filled with treasures. In the series "What's in your barn?" we'll be asking county residents that exact question. We hope to find not only interesting items, but stories about our neighbors, their homes and the things they treasure.

MONTEREY — As Ray Tryon describes it, one day he decided to build a barn and get himself some draught horses.

"I was in the excavation business," Tryon said. He started Tryon Construction Company in 1948, and over time, he became interested in horses. "It just appealed to me and it was a good escape from the business stuff."

In 1980, Tryon had "no plans" when he ordered some lumber and had some of his employees build the barn that now sits a little way behind his Monterey home. Then he started buying Percherons. Before he knew it, he had eight massive working horses.

"You start off with two and it grows," Tryon said.

Now, almost 40 years later, Tryon has since passed down his excavation business to his son, Leigh. He has also retired as Monterey's fire chief after 56 years. And he has stopped working horses. The only ones left are the two framed on his kitchen wall above some other family photos, their velvety black coats a little distorted by the photograph's age.

"They all died," Tryon said. "The last one died and I said that was it — a lot of work, getting old."

Now when Tryon opens the door of his barn, he walks beneath an old, round horse medallion and is met by a whole lot of motorcycles and motorcycle parts. After the last horse died, a little over a decade ago, Tryon handed over the space to his son-in-law, Ray Becker, to carry out his own passion project: antique BMW motorcycles. Sometimes, Tryon said, Becker goes all the way over to Germany for parts he needs, but on an average day, he's in the barn.

"The motorcycle man is probably [here] every day," Tryon said

The space has been transformed almost beyond recognition. Wheel rims, red and blue boxes full of small metal parts, plus the motorcycles themselves cover the space where Tryon originally built box stalls. More parts hang all around the edges of bar-covered windows, where Tryon's horses might have looked through and greeted him decades ago.

"It was quite a shock one day to come in here and see it looking like this," Tryon said. Stalls gone, machines moved in.

Signs of the barn's past life do remain. There's the tall, white wooden frame nestled between tires (just beyond a truck with the bumper sticker "Watch for Motorcycles"). Tryon explained that it was a stock, a frame used anytime you want a horse to stand in one place.

"To hook up all these horses, it took a lot of help, and I didn't have it," he said.

In the way his son-in-law maintains his aged motorcycles, Tryon said he used to do pretty much everything for his horses for the 25 years he had them, including vet care.

"The vet didn't want to come near these horses," he said, adding that his largest horse was 3,000 pounds and 19 hands tall, or six-plus feet at the horse's withers. So, the stock helped when Tryon had to, say, give a horse a penicillin shot.

"I took care of them all," he said. "They all had to be put down — I put them down myself."

The reward for all of Tryon's work was more work — work with the horses.

On Saturdays and Sundays, Tryon said he brushed, harnessed and hooked his horses up to a wagon or cart before driving them in the yard. He showed his horses once in the Topsfield Fair, but only once.

"Once is enough," he said. "You couldn't win — it was crooked."

Instead, for decades, Tryon and his horses kept to their Monterey home. Though the horses are gone today, the wagons and carts, hand-built by Tryon, aren't. Three of them, hand-painted fire engine red, sit on the second floor of the barn, where the hay used to go. Their surfaces are a little dusty, and their paint is a little muted as they peek out behind lumber piles and yellowing straw bales. But they're in there, at least for now, to stay.


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