Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What's in a name?

As I'm putting this blog out there recently a couple of friends have said, "Hey Tom, what's up with the 'Tom E.' Laughlin moniker? You've never been a 'Tom E.' Laughlin kind of guy before -- what up, bro??" 
Tom E. Laughlin

The answer is fun and in the end, it's as simple as the fact that my name is not 'mine' -- someone else owns it -- what? I hate it when that happens.

The story reaches back to 1971 when the 'Billy Jack' movies were coming on the scene in a huge way ( and it's a great story of the time.

The leading male role was played by actor Tom Laughlin and he did an amazing job, the films are classics, and he is still alive and kicking in Hollywood today in his eighties. 

Since he established the 'Tom Laughlin' name and brand and is still working it, I have an obvious situation to figure out so, wanting to work with some version of my own name, I considered including my middle initial E.

As I thought about it I realized anyone reading 'Tom E.' would naturally default to some phonetic version ending up in the neighborhood of, 'Tommy', so I'm going to go with it and we'll see what happens.

I continue to tweak the T-shirt shop ( and am very curious to see how it goes. Checking online you see good and bad comments about Spreadshirt, so let the market rule. And as I said in an earlier post, their price structure is higher than I/we would like, but their business model of printing T-shirts on demand as per Amazon with their CDs, DVDs and books is great and I'm working to get it whacked into acceptable shape -- all inputs appreciated. It's fun and I hope I can turn it into something more over the course of time.

More Otherwise
My original business website at is so old at this point that it is terribly outdated and something has to happen with it. I mean, it is so old that in the pics my hair isn't even gray yet  :-)  What I think I'll do with it is leave it there and call it my 'Legacy' website so people can see some of my production roots, and then include a link on its front page connecting to this new site. I'm really glad to be from the older world and still young enough to participate in what's happening now re technology etc. 

So I think I'll publish this post now and then tune in to the celebration in Boston as they finish off St. Louis for the World Series win, they're just one out away right now. Good for the city of Boston -- they've been through a lot this past year.

So keep on, more later on it all, and thanks for clicking in!

     Tom E. Laughlin

                             PS And I'll tell Art the Farmer that you all say hello!





Friday, October 25, 2013

                                                         The Edward Ayer Farm
                                                   Linn Township, Walworth County, Wisconsin

The twin barns in the above pic are located in southeastern Wisconsin, USA on the south side of Geneva Lake and city of Lake Geneva. They were built in the mid-late 1800s by Edward Ayer, who had made a fortune selling railroad ties to the railroads as they began their push West in the 1800s.  

As one of the wealthy elite his life and times were quite remarkable and were portrayed in a book written a couple years after his death in 1927. Here's a link to that tome and it's very cool, check it out:

I hope the link travels through the blog, if not Comment on it and I'll figure something else out. And hey, Comment either way as I'm trying to get this blog all up and happening and Comments and Followers are a good thing -- please consider doing both -- thanks!

Anyway, Ayer was a very good man and spent his wealthy life traveling the World while rubbing elbows with the roughest and toughest in his lumber business as well as the most polished and pristine as he helped the City of Chicago take shape in the 1800's. He also helped found the Field Museum in Chicago, built an amazing collection of Native American everything while helping Native tribes at the same time, and like so many of the wealthy of his era, he owned farms and farmland as the rich enjoyed trying to have the best farm to brag about when they got together in the hushed enclaves of their wealthy world, smoking cigars and drinking dark whiskey amidst the plushly padded furniture of the time. (At least, that's how I picture it :-)

So why two identical barns? That's what I was hoping to discover by scanning the pages of the book mentioned above. On a quick look I couldn't come up with the confirming info in the big book of 300-some pages, so if anyone wants to take it on and happens to find an actual mention of it, far out -- please let me know and I'll pass it along to everyone.  

But in the meantime, here's what I've heard about it in the area over the years as the barns have always been a source of much local attention -- they're on a busy road and people are always talking about them.  

There is more than one book about Mr. Ayer and I believe that buried somewhere in one of them is corroborating evidence and support to local lore that he built two identical barns so he could give one of the barns to each of his twin daughters! How great would that be in a one-upsmanship conversation with your wealthy friends in a dark, smokey room somewhere in the 1800's

True? Not sure, but I really do believe it in the end and will update as appropriate as time goes by. There are some really good local historians and somewhere, someone knows about it.

The barns are only still standing by grace of the metal roofs that were put on them at some point in the past. The barns may or may not keep standing  as the years come, as the many years that have already gone by have taken their toll

We are likely the final witnesses to the lives of these historic Heartland barns and it will be such a shame if/when they are no more -- they lived such a life and participated earnestly in the earliest years of our developing country not so long ago

And here they are still with us for as long as that is to be. They are so special -- it would be great to see them saved somehow for the future.

I had a chance to shoot some footage of the buildings a couple of years ago and I'm glad I got it then as they've slipped a bit since. And now I wonder if the weight of the once-savior metal roof ultimately turns it into one of the next threats to the barns' survival.

I'll tell you what, if someone does come up with that nugget of information from any source on why there are two identical barns, I'll gift them a DVD copy of the newest/third episode in the 'American Barn Stories' series AND the T-shirt from the e-shop in their size that has the two barns on the front of it. 

Take a look at the T-shirt here to see what it looks like:  

                     Here's the link to the main website -- visit often!

Thanks for visiting, more later on it all,


PS  And Art the Farmer actually knows quite a bit about the history of the farm from his days in the area and I'll get him on camera talking about it and bring it to you sometime later -- but not sure if he knows the oldest history -- stay tuned -- 






Sunday, October 20, 2013

The top photo shows my 1997 Blazer out in pasture number three on Art's farm outside Whitewater, Wisconsin a couple seasons back as I was weed whacking underneath the electric fence lines to provide for good current in the fence lines.

Art's farm is smaller, at around 40 acres, and has about two miles of fence lines to maintain. The lower pic shows one of the electric fence runs.  He has six pastures overall and has 30-some cows/bulls/calves on it.

The Blazer is currently referred to as, "Trusty Rusty" as she has almost 250,000 miles on her and she's doing what Blazers do best, RUST. Although, she's pretty darned good at everything 4-wheel drive, too. I'm going to keep her on to see how far she'll go. And it's also fun to drive her around town in the midst of all of the shiny new cars everyone seems to have as per below pic (not the red one, the white one).  

Blog Update
The blog is taking nice shape. If you'd like to Follow it I've added a 'Follow by Email' button that will bring you a link in your email whenever it is updated. And if you'd like to Comment, that option is available at the bottom of each new post where it shows whether anyone has commented and if so, how many comments there are. Just click on the word, 'Comments' and it will take you to the form.

Otherwise, good news, today I've just received the first order for an old barns DVD via CreateSpace, which is the Amazon service for DVDs and books. This is a very cool thing to have happen -- energy out brings energy back -- and to see the first order come in is a very rewarding moment for me. Amazon takes the lion's share for fulfilling the order but hey, I have no problem with that as it's a great business model and that is also how the old barns T-shirt shop functions at   

Over time, with your help, I'll develop the T-shirt and clothing arena to be something that fills the needs of everyone as best as possible. It will  take time, but let's enjoy the ride!

So stay tuned on it all and thank you so much for your interest. The national interest in our old barns is growing as more and more people are realizing how valuable and precious they are. They are direct connections to our founding past not so many years ago and we need to embrace some means as a country to help as many of them survive as possible. We are living the moments now of helping to make that happen for the future. Thank you for being part of it!

All the old barns best,

      Tom E. Laughlin


Friday, October 18, 2013

I have been spending some time trying to figure out how to allow for Followers on the new blog and it just isn't as straight forward as I would like. Won't bore you with the details, just know that I am working on it and will put the word out when that happens. Then if you follow, the new posts will just come to you automatically. As it is, I moved up to Google+ and they have some kind of wacky system called Circles. I don't have a handle on it yet, but if you click in to that area it might be a way for you to link to the site. More time will tell.

I'm also working to get the 'Comments' part working and it seems as if it is. The challenge I have is that it seems as if viewers have to click at the very bottom of the posts where it says either the number of Comments or, 'No Comments'. It's really tiny type and I would expect something larger so as to be more apparent to people.  Kind of not sure about it and this will take more time, too.

Again, I'm working on it and if anyone wants to try it out, feel free.

So what are all of YOU doing on this Friday night??? 

More later --- Tom  :-)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

It seems only right to get things started by showing people who is behind all of this. This is maybe my favorite pic of me and Art the Farmer -- it was snapped after some hot Summer haying a few seasons back. I met Arthur in 2000 while starting work on the old barns TV series and we've been friends ever since. Over time I've become one of the handful of volunteers who help him with some of the seasonal chores like haying year to year and it feels really good to get up to his farm 32 miles away and pitch in. Details on all of that will follow and follow and follow as the blog goes on, but at the moment you're looking at the two main energy sources that make this blog happen. I'm the Producer guy and Art and his Jersey cows are a big part of the big picture, and it's a great story.

As time passes I'll post on things related to the progress of the old barns series well as the honing of the T-shirt shop via Spreadshirt  I'm starting with Spreadshirt to fulfill orders because they seem to be a pretty good platform to start with. Their prices are higher than I would like, but it's a start -- let's see where it goes. It's great that there are companies who can do this for people like me who have content to bring to people that those people want. Feel free to pass along any comments on the shop as your inputs will help it take shape.

I know people want to see this old barns content because I do personal presentations of the shows to libraries and other groups and the response is absolutely amazing. These nice folks below were at the Graham Public Library in Union Grove, Wisconsin at 6pm Wednesday two weeks ago to watch the latest show and participate in my bit and it was a perfect evening -- nice people, and it felt really good for everyone.

 So many people love our old barns that it has become a mission for me to continue capturing as many old barn stories as possible to bring them to people everywhere. The newest/third show is just getting out there on various PBS stations around the country
so keep an eye out for it in your area, and if it's not on your local PBS station schedule, call them and ask for it! As I become aware of air dates I'll pass them along. 

As able I will extend the reach of the show to bring old barns stories from around the country to everyone.  The magic of social media opens up the network of contact to help make it all possible so stay tuned and let's enjoy the ride and count on me to just keep pushing on it -- and your help and inputs along the way will be greatly appreciated!

More later on it all --- wish you all the old barns best,

        Tom Laughlin/Kovia Productions
          Geneva Township, Wisconsin




Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Holy smokes, here we go on a whole new blog that is going to be a LOT of fun on many levels. The blog has a few purposes and missions, with those being to support and promote the "American Barn Stories and Other Tales From the Heartlands" series seen on PBS, make the corresponding website offering info on the series and DVDs and related merchandise available to people at, and also to introduce you to a good old farmer friend of the show, Arthur W. Johnson from rural Wisconsin -- he's a show in himself and you'll enjoy getting to know him, guaranteed!

More later on it all, stay tuned -- and thanks for stopping by!