#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, ….

Janet