Haying season is here. The row crops have had their last plowing, side dressing (sodium Nitrate) has been applied to the corn, and the cycle of activity on the farm is at a lull while the crops mature. Harvest season will be here soon.
On the small farms of my youth, this period was used to gather in supplies of wood and hay. Wood, preferably oak that had been cut earlier and given time to cure, is cut and split and piled into a pile to provide fuel for the stove and fireplace. Hay has been cut and turned to make sure it dries evenly. Then the neighborhood hay bailer is brought in to compact and tie the hay into big square bails.
Among my fondest memories were summer visits to my grandfather Fortson Sorrow’s farm, where I and any number of other grandsons would help to gather in the wood and hay, process it and store it for use in the upcoming winter.
We were typical teenagers, the kind who worked harder avoiding work than we did getting the work done. So when we were told to take my uncles old pickup truck to the back field and bring the bails of hay back to the barn, we decided to bring them all out with one trip.
We rigged a frame of pine limbs around the bed of the truck, filled bed with bales of hay, stacked them up on the supporting pine limbs, even packed bales of hay on top of the cab. Finally we managed to get the entire crop of hay stacked on that one little pickup truck. The trick then was to drive the truck out of the field back to the barn without the hay falling off.
I don’t know how many of you are familiar with field roads, especially here in the piedmont. They consist of nothing more than a cleared track through the trees, rocks and hillsides. They have small gullies washed out by the spring rains, stony outcrops that make the road unleveled, and occasional creeks or spring runs with their accompanying mud.
Well, I was the more “experienced” driver of the group which was not saying much, so I was chosen to drive the truck out of the field to the barn. The load of hay was so large and unstable that almost any bump, tilt or sudden stop would send it tumbling onto the ground. I sent my cousins out ahead to move any sticks or rocks from the road and started out.. . . very slowly. I probably averaged no more than one half mile per hour, gingerly edging through overlapping tree limbs and over rocks and gullies. And eventually we got the load to the barn without spilling it.
We finished with a great sense of accomplishment. We brought out the entire field of hay in one trip! No doubt we would have finished sooner, with less stress and aggravation, had we made two trips, but teenage boys are teenage boys and we were convinced that by getting it all in one load was quite a triumph.
We stacked the hay in the barn loft and headed out for our reward. We had left a watermelon in the creek to cool, and by the time we finished with the hay it was ready to eat. We were hot, tired and satisfied with our effort, so the watermelon was a fitting way to end the day.
Ah, memories. What would we old men do without them?
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His website can be accessed at http://frankgillispie.tripod.com/
back in the day
08/26/09 at 02:08 PM
Good read. Those of us who were not raised on a farm or in the country sure do appreciate these stories. I always thought I was a country girl, mom said, "No honey, you're a city girl". On and on we would argue. I insisted I was a country girl and somehow ended up in the wrong part of town/country. Well, in 1999 my dreams come true and I moved to the country! Hmmm . . . I pined(sp?) what is that smell? I guess it will pass. . . . Nope, here it is 2009 and the smells are all around. Every kind you can imagine. There isn't a convenience store on every corner or pizza delivery round the clock. Mom was right, I was a city girl. It took a lot of molding but, I have acclimated and I LOVE being a country girl. Still have much to learn! You know, us city folks thought we knew it all! You country folks do. I'm learning still. Thanks for sharing your heritage with those of us less fortunate.