The Barn

June 9th, 2013

Painting of my father by Mick McGinty

Inside a barn is a whole universe, with its own time zone and climate and ecosystem, a shadowy world of swirling dust illuminated in tiger stripes by light shining through the cracks in the boards.” Carolyn Jourdan

My brothers’ company, “Gateway 2000”, later to become just “Gateway” didn’t start in a barn, as they loved to say in those days… a lot.   It started in September of 1985 in a small farmhouse on the land where that barn stood.  Regardless, those young men saw it every day.  A early, famous ad “Computers from Iowa?” showed that barn and my brothers, and I’d guess that’s why the phone started ringing.  It was real, it was unique in those days of the early Silicon Valley companies, and it was my father’s land, and my father’s barn.  With that and the cattle that land once had, a brand was built.  It was a big barn, and what it stood for became a big brand, at least for a time.

Ted and his talking cow

The barn meant a lot to my father who purchased the land in the 70’s, as did the land.  My father’s relationship with the land was interesting, for a white man of his time.  He told me that it wasn’t something he just owned, it was  simply his job to take care of it while he was here.  Strangely, my brother, Ted, said something like that  just two weeks ago.   It was Native American land once, taken from them by someone, as it sadly happened when the white men showed up here in this corner of Northwest Iowa.  The land had had a few owners by the time my father had it, I don’t know all of the history and I don’t know what year the barn was built.  But it was an impressive barn, big and dark red and always beautifully maintained by my father.  It almost took your breath away when you went up over the hill and saw it for the first time.

My son Ben and niece Stephanie, early 90's.

My father’s family had a long history in the Loess Hills of Iowa.  The first ancestors, William Palmer Holman and his wife Lois Grant Holman, father of Ella Waitt, arrived here in 1856.  She died 3 months after they arrived.  Her letter written home to family in Connecticut speaks of the beauty of the hills and the river, although it was a strange land for her, and she missed the comforts of the east.  She was the first white woman buried in this county. Four generations of Waitt brothers followed WP Holman in the cattle business, until my father realized that the business he once knew really didn’t exist in the same way anymore.  He advised my brothers to do something else, and they did, but not without a nod to their roots.  That nod to Iowa and all those barns and those cow spots as homage to those generations built a brand that one could see in many parts of the world in the 1990’s.  I used to love seeing it in downtown New York and London.  It said Iowa to me.

So, this past few weeks, as I’m re doing the front page of my website, I had to choose a picture, just one to keep it simple,that might speak for what I do, and what I am. I looked for something that told my story, about me, my family, my work,  and how I see things.  After looking at probably hundreds of pictures of my life, my work, and my family, here’s what I landed on, and that’s why I’m writing this piece.

The barn and land, over 20 years ago. The land's a golf course now, but the barn is still there.

It’s a bit blurry, as is my memory of it in those days.  I’ve asked my friend Thomas, who does my changes, to make it that way.  It seemed right.  The barn does stand for what I’m about, I think.  A peaceful setting, nature, family, and roots.  Barns like that barn and the fertile land they stood on were and still are the lifeblood of Iowa, though it’s changing these days.  That way of life fed a lot of families, including mine.  The company that started right next to that barn made the money that we can all give back to others today.   Both the land and the company are owned by others now.  But the barn still stands, and to me the picture said, in 1,000 ways, this is home.

4 Comments on “The Barn”

  1. Stephanie said at 3:22 am on June 9th, 2013:


    I’m so glad you’re writing all of this! I hope it becomes a book I can pass on to my grandchildren. I have a tattoo of Iowa on my foot. I put it there so I could see it every day and remember who I am and where I come from and how much that means to me.

  2. cindy said at 8:56 pm on June 9th, 2013:

    I like the tattoo! I may put some of the blogs together for family, good idea! xoxo

  3. Ted Waitt said at 1:31 am on June 11th, 2013:

    I noticed Ted and his talking cow. When I was working on the farm in
    Sioux Falls that Dore bought for a small amount then (1949). We built three feed lots that could handle some 350 head of cattle and 50 or so hogs to follow the cattle. Dore bought 160 head of Holstein steers like Ted’s talking cow. We had gone through a blizzard with drifts 10 to 15 ft high. Dore. Called and asked if I could plow a road to the highway so we could send those Holsteins to market in Sioux Falls on Monday morning. I worked almost 20 hours plowing snow to make road so the trucks could get in and out. The Willers trucks hauled the cattle to market that they were going to close because no one could get their cattle to market. They kept the slaughter house open for those Holsteins and Dore made almost as money off those 160 head to pay for the farm. Ted picked a good brand of cow for his “Talking Cow” Not sure why he picked a Holstein as for his Gateway symbol but it is certainly apropos.

  4. cindy said at 2:02 am on June 11th, 2013:

    Uncle Ted, I love that story! Your hard work paid off, so perhaps there’s some magic in those Holsteins. I love the stories of the old days, keep passing those on….

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