Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Helping bale hay harvests sense of accomplishment

If that doesnít make sense to you, just forgive me. I have never before tried to describe how several pitch-forks full of cow feed could be pressed into neat, square-cornered bales weighing almost 90 pounds each! I am convinced that farming is an art not easily understood by females. I marveled that Jim could manage the herd of milk cows the way Dad managed them. On baling day, Dad could walk through a field, pick up a handful of the cut hay, smell it and know whether it was ready for baling. Then heíd walk a different pattern smelling hay and finally announce: "We can bale hay right after lunch."

Of course, I was the "low person on the totem pole," waiting and doing minor chores until even the mules - which pulled with a far-apart hitch - were rewarded. They knew Dadís voice and the message of his "driving lines" slapping their big round rumps, even when the hitch was a seldom used one. The hay-baling crew was composed of Dad, his two hired men, my brother and me. Jim worked hard and was paid well. I had watched men baling hay, but this special year I was to be part of the work crew. I wore my new blue denim, bib overalls and new blue work shirt, with a big red kerchief around my neck to keep out dirt and chaff.

Dad selected a level spot for the baler and secured it in place. Helpers made final wind rows with the "sulky" rake, which was needed on hay baling days; it usually sat on a rocky place in the pasture, and grass grew up through it and around except on hay baling days. On this day the "long tom" rake also appeared. I think Dad and other farmers might have owned it together. It had long, smooth wooden teeth for gathering hay and bringing it up close to the baler. The mules pulled from a different hitch - not side to side, but a few yards apart. Loose hay bunched up between the mules. The driver stopped and then backed the mules away and empty rake away and left the loose hay on the ground, near the baler. Dad got his special pitch fork for tossing loose hay into the baler hopper. Jim cranked the noisy, smelly balerís gasoline engine, and suddenly we were baling hay!

Jim stood on the opposite side of the baler facing me. I had watched this process, and I knew that I was to push the loop ends of two long baling wires through slots in a wooden block and wait to insert the other ends of those long wires through the slots of a second wooden block. Jim received the ends of those long wires and twisted them together securely so that when the entire bale was ejected from the baler, it would be a tight, neat bale of hay weighing almost 90 pounds. The next cloud of dust and dirt would arrive before I finished stuffing those long baling wires through the slots in the blocks. Rushing helped me forget the chaff down my neck and the grit between my teeth and to remember that I was earning 75 cents for that dayís work. I enjoyed the great feeling of having accomplished an important part of storing winterís food for the herd of Holstein dairy cows. It was a new kind of satisfaction, of doing something useful!


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