ROCK FALLS, Ill. (AP) — When Dan Sutton was learning contractor skills at his father Chet's side in Whiteside County, he took his advice to heart.
“He told me, ‘Danny, save this lumber. They don't make it anymore,’” the younger Sutton, now 62, said.
That bit of fatherly advice led Dan to open Barn Owls Reclaimed Lumber Co. 10 years ago. A two-person operation run by Sutton and his girlfriend, Rhonda Decelles, the company carefully disassembles old barns to get the wood for reuse by builders, artists and others.
In some ways, Barn Owls is itself coming full circle. Dan said his father, Chester Sutton and uncle Don Sutton were contractors out of Lyndon after World War II.
“They did a lot of work for the farmers, and now I'm recycling the barns. I've been saving barns for 30-some years. One of our logos is ‘Save the past, build the future,’” Sutton said.
While wood is a the biggest part of what Barn Owls recovers from barns, any materials left in the buildings are fair game.
“All artifacts in these barns that the farmer doesn't want, we reclaim that. The door hinges, whatever scrap stuff is in there, basically, is ours for the job,” Sutton said.
The business’ Facebook page features some of the works created from materials found in barns. One photo is of a fall planter made from a reclaimed livestock water tank, and another shows hog feeders turned into planter boxes.
“The strangest thing is a lot of beautiful character in lumber that the animals chewed on. We call it horse chew or cow chew,” Sutton said.
Sutton's on his 95th barn so far, having just started to disassemble a barn on Morrison's west side near the intersection of state Route 78 and U.S. Route 30.
”I'll supply anybody who wants to build anything. I'm trying to supply the lumber. ... Wherever somebody's got a barn they want me to save and reclaim, I'll go a good distance,'” Sutton said.
Even after all this time, old barns are still standing and in need of removal. Sutton will take people for a ride and point out where the barns are.
”When we go for a ride, they say, ‘I've never noticed them,’” Sutton said.
And when those barns do come down, Barn Owls will be there to pick up the pieces.