A Bit About Hay in it's Hay Day
This Narrative and Photos
pertain to one of the best-known events that we have in the south: Sowing, Cutting and Baling Hay. It's a big deal for the farmers who have lots of acreage sown in hay. There is an important reason for those who grow hay, and it's not just to adorn a farmer's fields. It's for the farmer's livestock--the beef cattle have to be fed great amounts of hay or if the farmer owns horses, they, like the livestock, love hay for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A dairy farm that depends on good milk production means feeding the dairy cows the sweet hay that the farmer has grown for them to help keep his livelihood strong.
And With This
artistic and iconic look at Hay, there is also another side of hay that we need to address. In my 64 years of living, I have experienced the Hay Harvest once. Only once. That was a plenty. I will try to present this topic in the briefest way possible because there is a lot more about hay that meets the eye.
You would think by looking at those cute paintings about Farm Life, that depict a farmer and his sons working a hay field (by hand) from the sowing hay seed to the horse (or tractor) drawn hay cutter to the modern-day hay baler that these people enjoyed a day in the hay field. If you thought such, you would be wrong and I don't mean "just" wrong, but so wrong that your faux pa will be remembered for years to come. Working in a hay field is some of the toughest work imaginable.
It's not like a farmer who has gotten out of bed at 4 am and says, "Bobby! Time to get the hay in, son," and the farmer's words do not get cold before "Bobby," his freckled-faced, Jay North "Dennis, the Menace"-looking kid wearing his fabled striped tee-shirt all but knocks his dad in the floor because "Bobby" is excited. This is the day that he has dreamed about: Hay Harvest, a time for good, old-fashioned hard work and pay him a good ten cents a bale for his harvesting skill.
But "Mr. Hay Farmer" has another thing to surprise him. "Bobby," a 10th grader, is already working his negotiating skills and has asked his dad for 15 cents a bale, so he can run over to the next house and get his best friend, "Jake" out of bed to help him with the Hay Harvest--where "Bobby" will pay "Jake" a nickel a bale. Isn't "Bobby" the young community "shark" when it pertains to money matters.
The morning doesn't fly by, roll swiftly, or zoom forward, but instead, "Mr. Hay Farmer," always the super-thorough protagonist, without knowing it, wastes two valuable hours of him not choosing to start-up the farm tractor equipped with a hay cutter to begin this Saturday's Hay Harvest because he starts with the most-menial detail of the tractor (according to the owner's manual) until he checks the last detail to make absolutely sure that the tractor is in ship shape. Note to self: find a new way to inject original phrases in my writing.
"Mr. Hay Farmer" starts up the tractor and his son, "Bobby," you've already met him, and "Jake," his best friend, walk briskly behind the tractor with their eyes focused onto the wheels turning so slowly that the boys are beginning to feel the early signs of being hypnotized without knowing it. But with the all-American saying about boys being boys, I feel that I have fulfilled pretty much everything you wondered about "Bobby" and "Jake," because in all reality, the boys are not that interesting.
Bluebirds fly about the hay field. "Bosco," "Mr. Hay Farmer's" dog that he raised from a puppy is riding comfortably beside "Mr. Farmer" on the tractor seat and I know that you are wondering why a grown man and dog are sitting together on a regulation-size tractor seat. The secret is: "Mr. Farmer" is a Homemade Tinker, a "Mr. Fix it," and he has plenty of friends and neighbors who at one time or the other, has helped all of them with a toaster that didn't work or a toilet that needed unclogging.
In "Mr. Farmer's" vision is six acres of prime hay that has grown to adulthood and just begging to be cut and ready to dry. "Mr. Farmer's" tractor sputters a moment causing "Mr. Farmer's" mouth to fly open, but he realizes that time is of the essence and he along with "Bobby" and "Jake" are anxious about getting the hay cut and raked so "Mr. Farmer" can come back tomorrow and bale this hay that he grew for his three beef cattle.
Now, "Bobby" and "Jake" realize that the "hard" work that "Mr. Farmer" almost preached about working with hay being a task was exaggerated. The two boys laugh to themselves and are amazed at how long "Mr. Farmer" has kept his mouth open. Little things amaze him. It's that way when you live in an isolated place with no traffic, gunfire, violence--just the gentle rural breezes to feel on your skin and realize that peace that only a farmer and his family can feel.
Without even a friendly warning, a bumble bee darts at "Bobby's" head and proceeds to sting him for no reason and flies away to go about what bumble bees do when you live in the rural part of the USA. "Jake" makes fun of "Bobby" for now having a red, swelling area above his right eye, but "Bobby" doesn't retaliate because the two boys are great rural friends and now will walk behind "Mr. Farmer"who is cutting the hay and "Bobby" and "Jake" are raking it into neat little rows.
All except "Bobby's" bumble bee sting, the day went really well--the hay was cut and "Mr. Farmer" even had a kind word to say to "Bobby" and "Jake" before "Jake" walked back home for supper. The only low point was "Mr. Farmer" or "Bobby" not inviting him to break bread with them. Sometimes, and this is only a wild assumption: in Rural America, there are not that many neighbors and the people who live in this place get accustomed to thinking only of themselves (mostly as a defensive mechanism) not on others.
"Hay Harvest" started the day after "Mr. Farmer's" hay was cut. "Bobby" was already on the way to call "Jake" to help for the last level of this rural event where "Mr. Farmer" is going to ride his hay baler and his wife, "Mrs. Farmer" is going to drive their one-ton Ford truck while "Bobby" and "Jake" walk behind the truck and toss the hay that the hay baler has compacted into neat squares onto the truck to be taken back for storage in "The Farmers'" barn.
During this all-important last day of "Hay Harvest," "Bobby" and "Jake" didn't encounter any insect stings, but they did meet something that was just as painful: The short stalks of the hay that the hay cutter left after "Mr. Farmer" cut the hay yesterday. This go around, "Bobby" and "Jake"didn't think today through and went barefoot, something that rural boys do, and those short hay stalks are bring the two boys more misery than a hive of bumble bees.
Meanwhile, "The Farmers" are both contented as can be. Their smiles are similar to a summer night's moon radiating so bright. "Mr. Farmer" gives the signal to "Mrs. Farmer" that it is Lunch Time and the family and "Jake" will sit in the shade and enjoy the delicious lunch that "Mrs. Farmer" so thoughtfully-prepared the night before. I can tell you that there is one word that aptly describes "The Farmers": Special.
And with the lunch, that was very delicious and enjoyed by all, another "Hay Harvest" comes to an end. "The Farmers" gained six more hay bales this year than the year before.
Sowing, cutting, raking, and baling hay is not for everyone. But I could have told you that.
_____________________________________________________Jan. 29, 2018
© 2018 Kenneth Avery