We started cutting hay over the weekend. I believe we are the first ones in the field again this year. I just do it to upset Russ, one of my neighbors. The forecast is for rain later in the week. Most ranchers are going to wait until this weather “event” is past. I figure if it rains, it won’t hurt the hay. We need to rake it before we bale anyway. And when I feed in the winter, the cows eat what I put out, whether it has been rained on or not.
I’ve often said that North Dakota has only two seasons. “Feeding hay season”, and “making hay season”.
Whenever we start haying, it brings back lots of memories. Look over towards the shop in the evening and you can picture Grandpa Herb or Uncle Hugh sharpening a seven-foot sickle. Or replacing a wooden pitman. Usually with a curious grandson or granddaughter sitting on a bucket watching. Just a little closer than they should be.
You can see Grandpa Jack, or Grandpa Darrel, heading for an old hay truck with a water jug wrapped in burlap bags to keep it cold. This was back before they invented ice.
I can remember Uncle Bill getting a small square bale off the top of a two-ton truck loaded with hay bales and weighing it, just out of curiosity. 110 pounds! And then throwing it back up on the truck by hand. Six tiers high!
I can close my eyes and see, just as clearly as if they were before Slim, Fat, Kenny, and myself, heading out at daylight to start hauling little squares. Knowing that if we got a thousand hauled, we could quit for the day. And go swimming in an alkali lake.
I can smell Mom’s cooking when you came in from the hay field. Knowing there would be ice tea and a wonderful meal. And she would patch the holes we wore in our overalls. Or we would take Tehr Grease, and glue canvas on the fronts of your pants.
I can recall the year we planted trees North of the House. A mile of the cutest little trees you ever saw. And I was running a new Versatile 400 swather. And I cut right up to that tree row and called it a day. Jerry came home from the river right at dark and saw that new swather sitting there. He couldn’t resist. He had to make a round. One mile up cutting chokecherry bushes! One-mile back cutting bull pine! I don’t know the protein value in baby trees. But I saw a look in Shirley’s eyes I don’t want to see again.
I can remember when we got our first stack frame and began stacking loose hay. We were going to town then! Put two kids in the frame with pitchforks and start bucking hay in with an “A” John Deere. And riding down on the push off after the stack was finished. And looking back with pride on a perfect stack, that didn’t lean, and would shed water like a duck.
I remember switching Howard’s water jug with a real HiLex jug and waiting for him to take a drink. I was not a very nice little boy!
I can see a ten or eleven year old boy, the first time he was sent to rake a field. Two rounds this way, and one back. Two rounds this way, and one back. And knowing that someday, you would get to run the baler!
I remember Dad’s and Grandpas hands. Black with that old black grease from working on mowers and square balers and loaders and trucks.
I can remember Uncle Hugh and Grandpa Jack cutting hay on the res. In places that were too rocky for a cow to graze!
And they hayed and baled and stacked until the snow forced them to quit.
Hard work. And great memories.
Take a minute and smell they hay. You too can see your Grandpa, or your Dad, or yourself, and smile. As you look back on that stack of squares that is just perfect!