April 17, 2021

Stewart Acres puts American flag on barn roof

Randy Stewart and his son, Austin, had a brainstorm one day. They are patriotic people and, wishing they had a flag pole for an American flag (the 4th of July was coming up), they did the next best thing. They painted the American flag on their barn roof. Yep. They didn’t realize how much work it was going to be but once they got started, it was hard to quit. They went to work with scaffolding and ladders and chalk-lines and paintbrushes and cans of spray paint. The result is an eye-catching, 12′ x 32′ American flag on their barn roof, which faces the road at 1406 310th St. in Salem. It’s known as Stewart Acres.

They painted the flag in 2016 with the help of Jessi Melvin. Since then, the flag has faded and been repainted, especially the 50 stars. Their neighbor, Brianna Wilkerson, helped with the repainting. They use the flag on their barn roof as a landmark when giving directions to their home. “It’s on the south side of 310th Street, look for the American flag on the barn roof.”

The Stewarts have lived on the farm for seven years. Randy was born and raised here and went to school in Mt. Pleasant. His folks have always lived in Salem. When he was 19, he hopped a Trailways Bus for Omaha and went to work. At the age of 49, he was diagnosed with rectal cancer and decided to move back to be closer to family. Austin, his son, came with him. The cancer is in remission.

The Stewarts are handy people. They run a commercial mowing business, mowing cemeteries and nursing homes. The Forest Home Cemetery in Mt. Pleasant is one of their accounts. They also do roofing, concrete work, landscaping, restoration, demolition and odd jobs like hauling gravel and tree work. If a lot needs cleared or a building taken down, the Stewarts are interested. They own the oldest commercial building in Salem. It’s located at the intersection of Cherry Street and Main. It used to be a bank back in the late 1800s and had a printing shop upstairs and a clothing store in the other half. As time went on it was the American Legion and the post office for many, many years. The Stewarts use it now for a woodshop and are looking into the possibility of procuring grant money to restore it. The town of Salem almost burned down once. When the town rebuilt, they used brick from Salem’s brickyard. This building is built with that brick. The banker’s name is still above the door: Bixler.

The Stewart farm is pretty close to being a petting zoo. They have two pigs, three goats and four cows in the barn. In any given year there will also be a deer or two hanging around. When the Stewarts come across a fawn while mowing, they will bring it home and care for it if it’s been abandoned. They’ve raised three and still see the deer after they’ve gone away. Last year, the one they raised three-or-four years ago was seen down in the pasture still wearing her pink collar. She had two baby bucks with her. Another year they found a fawn with a broken leg. Randy made a splint for her and she survived until she could make it on her own. The deer are always free to come and go as they please.

The Stewarts like to pick up deer sheds also. It keeps them in shape for mushroom hunting. Austin wants to train a Chocolate Lab to find and retrieve deer sheds. (He’s also wondering if a dog can sniff out mushrooms.) The Stewarts used to have a lot more deer sheds but Randy’s Chocolate Lab steals them off the rack and chews them up.

When fall rolls around, the Stewarts go hornet-nest hunting. Yep. It’s a race with the birds. When a cold snap hits, the hornets die and the nests are empty. Birds like to dig out the larvae. The Stewarts cut off the branch and coat everything with polyurethane. Bars and restaurants snap the nests up as fast as the Stewarts can find them.

It’s been a tough winter with lots of snow and ice in February. The American flag on their barn roof is fading again. They may have to touch her up some this summer and keep Old Glory flying high. Stewart Acres doesn’t need an excuse to display the American flag.

Contact Curt Swarm at curtswarm@yahoo.com