Saturday, June 28, 2008

Memories From My Childhood

When I was growing up, I had the privilege of spending my summers on family farms that belonged to my uncles. Both of my parents grew up on farms so there were lots of places to visit and spending time with my cousins was always a lot of fun. The farms were mixed farming operations. That meant there were cows, calves, pigs, chickens and grain. If you read between the lines, it really means that there were chores to do. I learned to feed the cows, pigs, chickens, etc. I also got to help out with other farm tasks like cleaning the barn, weeding the garden (never a favorite...), cutting the grass and hauling hay bales.


Hauling hay bales was always one of my favorite things to do. It was one of the hardest jobs on the farm because it meant long days in the hot sun, lifting heavy bales and then unloading them in either the hayloft or building large stacks in the 'hayfence' that were 45 or maybe even 50 bales high. A good day of hauling bales meant that we left the farm by 7 to be at the hayfield by 7:30 and have our first load of 145 (that's 5 bales high, plus a double row across the top) back at the farm by 10. We tried to be back by 10 so that we could unload and get another load done before lunch. That process would be repeated about 5 or 6 times a day. Sometimes we would go with double racks (250 bales) although I'm not sure why we didn't do that more often.

Before my uncle and I would leave the farm for the field we'd stop by the house and my aunt would send out a large glass jar filled with water and ice, wrapped in heavy brown paper and tied up with baler twine. After our first load was filled we would stop and drink water out of the large glass jar. Water never tasted sweeter or colder. It would run down my chin and get the front of my shirt wet. This was a double bonus because as I rode on the fender of the tractor going back to the farm the breeze would dry it off and I would feel even cooler. As time went on and we became more sophisticated, we would bring a water cooler and drink from paper cups but it was never the same.

The reason for this trip down memory lane today is because near our house are several small hay fields and the farmers are bringing in the first crop. Early this week, they mowed the hay. There's nothing like the smell of freshly mown hay.... Then one day on the way home from work, I noticed that the hay had been raked into swaths. I always like to see the rows across the field. It's just so... geometric... I guess...

Then this past Wednesday, I was bringing the boys home from school and there was a farmer with a tractor and a flatbed trailer loading bales. He was 'setting the load' in the same way my uncles taught me to do it. I became so nostalgic that if I hadn't been in a suit and with the boys, I would have pulled over and asked if I could help load in the hope that he would have offered me a drink of cold water out of a large glass jar.

Maybe he would have have even tossed a few bales right over the rack when it was 4 bales high like my Uncle Jack could do just to show me how strong he was, or tell me some stories about growing up with my dad like my Uncle Willie would do...

I think I've just remember what I really liked about hauling bales... it connected me to the roots that have never left me. Those were good days... hauling bales...

2 comments:

Sonya said...

I don't know Tim. Perhaps it's because I hate hard physical labour, but I don't have nearly the fond feelings for haying that you do. Or maybe it's just because nobody ever offers me a drink of cold water from a jar. Or a cold drink of water from anywhere come to think of it. Ok, now I'm starting to feel bitter so I better stop before this turns into a full-on rant about how much I hate farm work. ;)

Sonya said...

PS...if you're ever in the 'Loops while we're baling stop on by and we'll let you help to your heart's content. :)