"Bookkeeping on the Barn Door"
Reminiscence of James Greenacre From a Family Ranch
at Box Elder Canyon in the early 1900s
Charlene Tresner, Interviewer, 1976
"I can remember our old barn up on the ranch (at Box Elder Canyon in the early 1900s). Barn doors-that's where they kept track of the books. And you could go there and see all these pencil marks. Such as, 'SOLD: so many horses, so many cows.' Then, 'brought in so many.' Then, '1000 sheep went to so and so.' That's where they kept the books, right on the barn door."
"And no wonder when my father went into the business and he said 'What's that?' when they opened up the ledger. It was very hard for him. He kept books on the barn door and then the barn burned down and there went a record.
I'd love to still have just one of those doors. Yeah, it would be a real family treasure. But that's the way they used to do it. You'd make a deal with a guy saying, 'How much hay is in that stack?' 'Well, that's 20 tons.' 'Okay, how much is it?' 'Okay', shake hands and the deal went through. The only reason the deal wouldn't go through would be the man would die. If the husband had told his wife that he'd made this deal, she'd stand behind it."
"Nowadays you have to have a lawyer, go to the courthouse, get it all signed."
"There's nothing like an honest-to-goodness handshake. I'm sure women would shake hands over things too . . . That's just the way it worked out. Didn't have to get in a hassle over it."
(The Greenacre's interview is nearly 100 pages long and contains many details about the Greenacre, Brollier and Watrous families and life in Fort Collins in the early 1900s. Find the complete interview in the Archive's oral history collection.)