May 28, 2010

Haying season is here, and for me it is a sweet time of recollection. I’ve worked with small round bales, small squares and eventually large round bales. Each required specific equipment and skills. It is the small bales I recall most fondly.

The little round bales came first. Weather hardy, you could bale now and pick up later. If it rained on them, we’d just wait until they dried.

When I was about eight, my job was to steer a B John Deere between two rows of round bales while an older brother on either side of the hayrack, flipped bales to a third brother who stacked them five high. I still remember with chagrin the day a full load traversed an open badger hole on a hillside and bales and brother flipped off.

When we shifted to a square baler, I was still the designated driver, but on a 630 John Deere with power steering.  When my next older brother was drafted, I moved up to stacker.

This was a tricky job, balancing on the hayrack and building a tight stack five layers high with a single layer down the center top. At age 15, it was my pride and joy to build a 125-bale load that sat tight as a brick as the wagon bounced back to the barn.

When I returned from the army at 20, a kicker had been added. While it was easier, the art of stacking was gone. Also gone was the camaraderie of the stacker and driver working as a team, always trying to load the hayrack before the next empty arrived.

I miss those hot sunny days, bouncing across the fields on a hayrack and working with others to a common end.

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