The Farm Chronicles: Of rain and hay

Nothing brought farmers in Northeastern Ohio more angst in June and July than haying season. Under cloud cover most of the time, the weather was really a guessing game. Nobody wanted their hay to get wet during any part of the cutting, drying or baling process. If you didn’t have a baler, you had to find somebody who did, which could be difficult if everybody cut their hay on the same day, hoping for the same good weather. We always hired Junior Roberts to do our baling. His baler kicked out bales that weighed nearly 100 pounds each. Junior’s baler gave meaning to the phrase, “you’ve got to carry your own weight around here.” I knew it first hand in haying season as I was a skinny little runt.

There were many a year that I used a hay hook to drag those heavy bales to the wagon, helping my brothers as they loaded and stacked the hay while Dad drove the tractor. When I got older, I could actually get at least one end of the bale on the wagon while it was moving through the field, and one of my brothers, either Larry or Chuck, would take it from me. Sometimes I felt they humored me because I wanted to help, but maybe I was more in the way than anything. They eventually figured out what I was best at—stacking hay in the barn. So I was up in the 120 degree barn with one brother throwing bales up through the haymow door and the other tossing them up to me for stacking. They said I was the “very best” at stacking, but in retrospect, I think they wanted to avoid the heat. Just saying.

In 1964, I was nine years old, about 4 ½ feet tall and surely less than 100 pounds. Junior had a window to bale our hay, and even though we knew it was going to rain, Dad, who was away, told him to go ahead and bale. My brothers and I worked all afternoon putting those heavy bales in the barn and there were still a couple hundred left in the field as the rainclouds came rolling in. The neighbor’s came and got their hay wagon, so we had only our 1963 International stake bed truck to pick up the hay. Chuck had this idea for me to drive the truck and he and Larry would load the hay. He would set the throttle and the truck would just idle along as they loaded and stacked. I was all in, but I couldn’t even reach the clutch or the rest of the pedals without standing up in the cab. Chuck got the truck rolling and jumped out the driver’s side door.

I scooted over and took the wheel. It went OK until the truck was almost full and they yelled out for me to stop. I stood up, left foot down on the clutch, and the truck coast to a stop. A few more bales left, they said to let out the clutch slowly to move on. Well, I eased the clutch into that terrible spot where it was almost engaged, but not quite. The truck suddenly was jerking back and forth throwing me back in the seat and my foot slipped off the clutch and the truck bounced on down the field. Chaos ensued. By the time we got stopped, all the hay had fallen off the truck and it was pouring rain. Amos 4:7 says “one portion of ground was rained upon, and another without rain withered.” We got a little more than rain when Dad got home and found out what happened.

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Bill Wilson