By Angie Fenton | Photos by Tony Bennett
Dorrel Harrison spent much of the first part of his adult life teaching health education in the public school classroom in upstate New York, where he lived with his wife, Kathleen, and their four children. He was also heavily involved as an elder in a small church. After 33 years as an instructor, Dorrel retired and relocated to Scottsburg to live near his now-grown kids. “All of us are familiar with (King) Solomon’s words, ‘There is a season for every activity under the sun,’” Dorrel recently wrote, quoting the Bible. For Dorrel, there have been many seasons, including his most recent one as a highly-regarded Indiana artisan known for his handcrafted, three-dimensional barn plaques created from reclaimed wood. “I try to give the wood a second chance and redeem it,” he explained, which is also how he sees his own life. “I didn’t know I could do this until a few years ago. God gives us certain talents to glorify Him, and I want to do this.”
Barns play a major role in our farming heritage, said Dorrel. “Although they are not living entities, every barn has a story.” So does the wood Dorrel uses to create his plaques. Barns from the 18th and 19th centuries were usually made of wood, which “would weather and sometimes even be burned by the owner. But I discovered that barn board can be redeemed to become something beautiful for others to appreciate and get a glimpse of God’s glory.”
In addition to handcrafting barns, Dorrel can create any physical structure, including homes, bridges, mills, storefronts and historical buildings. “People buy them for gifts. I really enjoy meeting the ones who have good memories of their barn (or other physical structure),” he said. “I also enjoy … trying to make Scottsburg a better place.”
Does your barn have a story? Enter the Bicentennial Barns contest by visiting www.200indianabarns.com. Entries will be accepted through October 2015. Of the 200 Indiana barns selected for the Bincenntenial Barns project, 10 finalists will receive a handcrafted, framed barn plaque made by Dorrel Harrison.