#Idiom: They must have let the bars down

I like to mix things up with a range of topics on my blog. When thinking about an idiom to write about today, I thought of a saying my father often said. Much to my surprise when I started researching it, I discovered… nothing.

I’m left not knowing if this saying was original with my father or perhaps it was so specifically local to our community that it didn’t make it into any books of idioms. I think this is the first time I’ve searched for something online and come up empty.

Nevertheless, I’ll write about it today and speculate about its origins. This promises to be my shortest blog post ever.

“They must have let the bars down.”

Have you ever heard that said? Do you have a clue what it means?

My father would say this if he drove up to a stop sign and there was so much traffic coming that he had to wait an inordinate amount of time before he could turn onto or cross the street.

This was a confusing thing to hear as a child. Not wanting to show my ignorance, though, I didn’t ask what he meant by that.

Photo by Derek Lee on Unsplash

It was something my father said so many times that it’s permanently ingrained in my head. When I come to a stop sign and there is so much traffic coming that I have to wait more than a little while to make my turn, “They must have let the bars down” flows through my brain and I can’t help but smile.

Photo by Monika Kubala on Unsplash

I think it was sometime after my father died that the saying came to mind and I asked my mother what it meant. Her explanation was that it referred to the letting down of the bars or gate keeping cows in an enclosure or pasture. With the bars let down (or pushed aside or the gate opened) the cows would likely see they had an escape route and break loose.

Photo by Jinen Shah on Unsplash

On a trip to Scotland, my sister and I were reminded as the saying. More than once, we saw where there were heavy iron bars in the ground the width of a gate or opening in a fence. Unable to get a steady footing on the bars, which were several inches apart, a cow would not be able to get to the opening and escape the pasture but a tractor, truck/lorry, or car could drive across and get through.

Our father grew up on a farm that in fact was a dairy farm during his teenage years. Did his father and older brothers utilize such bars in any of their pastures? Or perhaps he’d seen them used for that purpose elsewhere. Or maybe it was just a way of saying a gate made of iron bars had been opened to let the cows out of one enclosure to be led to another.

It’s too bad I didn’t have enough curiosity at the time to ask my father what he meant and whether he’d heard the expression used by others.

Is that it?

Is that it? Is that all there is?

That’s all I have for you.

If you’ve ever heard the saying and have a different explanation of it, please let me know.

Until my next blog post

Thank you for reading my blog

Keep reading good books.

Spend time with family, friends, and a hobby.

Perhaps above all, ask the older people in your life those questions you’ve put off asking. Ask them the questions you’ll wish someday that you had asked them because one day it will be too late. That day could be tomorrow.

Remember the people of Ukraine, Uvalde, Highland Park, ….


16 thoughts on “#Idiom: They must have let the bars down

  1. Well Janet, sometimes that happens. Remember that the Internet now is much smaller than it was a decade ago. “They” have removed many entries and articles, and if you notice, now the internet seems much more corporate than it used to. So it doesn’t surprise me. Your mother’s explanation seems very logical and real. In the country people referred to things according to the way they lived and dealt with the animals they had. It makes perfect sense. No, I had never heard it, but then again, I only lived in the US, I was not a native and English was not my native language or of my family. But I like the saying, or the idiom.

    I am back now fully engaged in “work”, trying finally to kick off that project of the poetry book. I am trying to get information and advice and in the meantime I am submitting some of my poetry to magazines here in Valencia for a little local recognition. I am also back to painting full time, already finished two paintings (one already sold) during the month of August. The weather here? Well, still hot, very hot for the season, but cooling off, little by little every week.

    Take good care and continue to write, research, investigate and be creative. All the best and greetings from Spain,

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, Francis. Your point is well taken about the Internet. I’ve become accustomed to being able to find everything online — keeping in mind that only certain sources can be trusted, of course.

    You are indeed now fully engaged in “work” and it makes me tired just reading about the number of projects you’re into. I can’t wait for your poetry book to be published! I’m certain your local poetry submissions will be met with publication and great acclaim. Keep submitting!

    My cookbook project has slowed down as I haven’t been able to get the cover photo made yet for various reasons. My genealogy project is moving more slowly than I’d like. I realized this weekend that there’s really no way for me to complete it this year. There’s too much remaining to do and I’m working on too many other projects. I’ve also ended up with too many books coming available at the public library than I can get to, so I’m spending more time reading than writing over the last week or so. I must remind myself, though, that reading is just as important — or perhaps more important — for a writer than writing time.

    It’s a new week. I hope you and I will find it to be a productive and rewarding week as we work on our numerous projects. Take care, and greetings from a warm but tolerable North Carolina.


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Slowing down can be a blessing as it can help clear away the tunnel vision that sometimes accompanies the anxieties we develop while trying to accomplish many things. With a clear head and more perspective better results can be attained, so don’t worry. If you keep working, even if slower, you will reach your goals, remember the tale of the tortoise and the hare…
    Yes, let’s make it a great week in many ways, creatively and spiritually. All the best,

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think you’re right, Rebecca. I was curious to know if others had heard it. Aside from one reader saying she’d heard it said, “Someone must have left the gate open,” no one has come through to indicate that it was a common saying across the country.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Those sayings are such important parts of our memories and characterizations of people. I thought my dad’s favorite saying was original, but I found out John Lennon first said it, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” : )

    Liked by 1 person

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