There are about three days a year when everything else gets put to the side. When the alfalfa is ready to be put up, it is a race against weather to get it put up dry, so it takes precedence over anything else. Even if we are swamped at the shop, we will pull our oldest son Bryan out of there to help us on the back of the hay buggy. Him, our other son Kyle and our three teenage grandsons get put to work to insure Ma and Pa’s goats and sheep are well-fed next winter!
I enjoy it, but that’s only because I’m the driver of the buggy and even though sitting in the hot sun all day is miserable, my physical effort is limited to getting on and off the darn thing. Watching me do that provides some much needed comic entertainment to the guys who are doing the physical labor of handling those 70 pound bales.
Brett really liked the next picture. I told him it made him look like the incredible hulk!
Once the buggy is loaded we head back to our house to unload, which is even harder work for the guys than the loading was. Bryce and Kyson, the younger of the three grandsons, pull them off the stack and put them on the chain which has now been put in reverse and is running towards the hay shed.
The oldest grandson Brett is up in the shed with his Grandpa and two uncles. I sit in the drivers seat in order to rev up the engine when needed, to make the bales reach them faster, or stop the chain when they are getting covered up. I’m not very good at paying attention though, and they holler at me repeatedly to speed up or stop the chain because instead of watching the bales, I get mesmerized watching these men in my lives. Watching my husband and sons adult relationships, watching Grandpa teach his grandsons how to stack the bales, watch the uncles tease and have fun with their teenage nephews. As I sit and take all this in, I once again whisper a prayer of thanksgiving for this big family of ours. The teenagers don’t know it, and would laugh at me for saying it, but having this experience of helping their grandparents, working with their grandpa and uncles, it is molding them. Molding them into men who aren’t afraid of hard work, aren’t afraid of getting their hands dirty, and are willing to help others. Working together cements relationships also. It’s a chance to spend time together in an old-fashioned way that is not at all conducive to holding a phone in your hand. There is talking, laughter, teasing and teaching. As I take it all in, I feel overwhelming gratitude for the blessing this simple, country life is to all of us.
All of the young ones are aware of their Dad/Grandpa’s heart condition and his unwillingness to take things easy, so they go above and beyond their share to make it as easy as they can on a stubborn old guy. At one time that old guy would haul and put up between 2000 and 3000 bales a day, sometimes more. That is how we made a living when we first got married. I told the boys, “I would say it was just an old man making the story better, kind of like ‘walking four miles to school, uphill both ways when I was a kid,’ but I saw it, I was there.” I was there either hauling dinner to the fields or riding on the hay buggy with him or driving it because he couldn’t find the third guy to help. I helped him make out the bills to send. They really did haul that many!
We managed to get in 1200 bales in two days. 800 for us, 200 for Mark’s cousin, the owner of the field and 200 for someone who bought them from Mark’s cousin. I know it doesn’t seem like much compared to how many were hauled 40 – 50 years ago, but #1) Our hay buggy has seen better days. It has to be babied along, we would have to stop and pour water over a solenoid because it would get hot and cause the buggy to stall several times a load. And when it is loaded and trying to get up a hill on the road to our house, we all held our collective breaths and prayed it to the top! #2) None of us are acclimated to this heat like people were back then. We live in air-conditioning, most of us anyway. Our homes are air-conditioned, our cars, our tractors, so when you are thrown out into the scorching sun and start doing hard physical labor all of the sudden, it is going to take it’s toll on your body!
After the last full load, Grandpa declared we were done, it was time to quit. Our younger son had to leave because he and his wife were going to her Mom’s for the weekend. The grandsons headed home but Bryan and I looked at Mark and said we know you! You are not leaving those last 50 bales out there tonight, especially since they are predicting rain. Mark said, “Bryan, Mom and I can get them, go home to your wife!” Bryan said “NO! I’m not letting you get those by yourself. My wife is fine, although I am a sexy beast and she probably wishes I was home right now!” (I couldn’t leave that little declaration out) We went back to the field, got the last 50, brought them home and got everything under a shed, which was good because we did get major rain that night.
I don’t think the “sexy beast” was up to par as tired as he was!
The end result, a hay shed completely full of 800 excellent quality alfalfa bales. And goats that are left speechless, so excited all they could do was stand, stare and think Wow!