is the last in my Trilogy about harvesting that I experienced while
living on a Farm in Southern Michigan during the early 1940s.
Threshing and Silo-Filling were community activities involving many
people on a "Ring." Haying, our "other"
harvesting was more personal and usually only involved the members of
our immediate family. But the amount of work involved and the
"pressure" to finish the task was as earnest and exacting
as any -- regardless of the number of persons involved.
(Lucerne) was the preferred source of our Hay. There are three or
four other kinds of plants, i. e., grasses (Timothy) and forbs (The
Clovers) that would do as well, but we liked the leafy, full body of
this Legume that delivered plenty of bulk and much more than just
stalks & stems when fully dried. Besides, it was good for the
soil because of the nodules on the roots containing Nitrogen captured
from the atmosphere.
our Michigan climate, influenced by the Great Lakes, one crop a year
was all that we expected but we always wanted to be sure it was a big
one. The fact that during July/August there was a "window"
of about two weeks where the plant was mature enough to make good
Hay, added to the intenseness we all felt during these harvest days.
intense activity on the Hay farm while harvest proceeds until
- As Wikipedia put it: "The successful harvest of maximum yields of high-quality Hay is entirely dependent on the coincident occurrence of optimum crop, field, and weather conditions. When this occurs, there may be a period
conditions become unfavourable."
had a smaller Model B John Deere Tractor that we used to pull a
cutter-bar mower which once had been a horse-drawn implement. A
shorter wooden tongue sufficed to adapt it to being pulled by a
gasoline-powered Tractor. And, yes, it still had seat on it --
although it was unused unless we children begged to be allowed to
ride a round or two on it (after 1939, we had a big John Deere Model
D with a bolt-on mower attachment driven by the splined "power
size of the cutting swath (and thereby the length of the cutter-bar)
varied between manufacturers, but eight feet (or 96 inches) was about
right. The cutter-bar required lots of maintenance in the form of
keeping the individual blades sharpened. Each triangular blade was
about 3 inches wide and was riveted onto the bar. There were more
than 30 of them; each with a saw-tooth serration on the beveled edge.
A powered emery wheel was usually the preferred method of sharpening
although a hand-emery bar would do as well. A file was useless
because the blades were so hard that the metal file would be ruined
if you tried to use it. Once in a while, hitting a stone would knock
a blade off and that required a re-riveting job.
the Alfalfa was deemed ready, then the mowing started. This was the
one kind of work with a Tractor that was at an almost exhilarating,
fast pace. Ordinarily, things
like plowing, etc., placed the
Tractor under such a load, that the lowest gears had to be used --
and that was "dulls-ville," a real "drag" when it
came to moving right along. Not
so with mowing; you could go at a
good clip. But, there was a problem with this; if you didn’t
thick sponge rubber seat-cushion, the faster you went over most
fields, the rougher the ride and the more your insides (especially
your Kidneys) were “rattled.”
more seriously, wild animals or young game birds such as Pheasants
had little chance to escape injury when they naturally
crouched down in the high Alfalfa. It was their defense response to
hide from the rapidly oncoming iron-clad behemoth snorting the
exhaust roar of the Tractor or broadcasting the loud clack-clack of
the Mower. Loss of a leg was a common injury for those poor
a time of waiting while the new-mown Hay was drying on the ground.
the smell of new-mown Hay was like perfume to the nose.
We hoped for less night dew during this time and rain was
After a good while, a Hay-Rake
in and towed behind the Tractor. It was a side-winder and turned the
swaths of cut Hay into "windrows" now somewhat more compact
but bunched higher than before and perhaps two feet wide. This new
forming of the original swath facilitated air passing through and
allowed further and more complete drying.
optimum processing was just one turn-over of the Hay after cutting --
that way, very few leaves fell off and there was very little
other “shattering” of the Alfalfa. Rain and dew
and those events complicated things enormously. A continued period of
wetness could cause mold to start; repeated raking of the Alfalfa in
attempts to dry it could leave nothing but the stalks. Many Farms
animals are susceptible to illness from mold and reduced food value
from feeding only the remaining stems is no help in any serious
weight-gaining plan for the livestock.
last, the order was given to bring in the Hay. Usually there was a
Tractor-drawn wagon driven out to the field of dried Hay.
the field, there was positioned a Hay-Loader
temporarily hooked on behind each empty wagon. It functioned by
picking up the dried Hay from the 24" wide windrow using a
roller-drum with thin, spiked fingers sticking out of it. This rolled
in the same direction as the wheels and caught the stream of Hay and
brought it up on the backside of the roller where it was deposited
onto a conveyor consisting of horizontal 6 ' long wooden slats bolted
onto a chain on each side. The entire apparatus was over six feet
wide; this width allowed the Tractor driver to "wander" a
bit as he or she drove along over the windrow. These continuously
moving slats carried the Hay on up to a leveling off of the elevator
and now the Hay moved forward instead of upward. (On some Models, the
angle of this elevator/conveyor could be adjusted easily upwards to
fit the height of the growing load of Hay).
two persons on the wagon with pitchforks positioned the Hay now
dropping down to their disposal; although one person could do it "in
a pinch" with the wagon moving slower. My Father and my older
Brother (6 years older than I) traditionally were the loaders. My
Mother drove the Tractor until one hour before Lunch or Supper times.
Then my Mother passed off the driving to my older Sister (3 years
older than I) so that she could to go back to the House and have time
to prepare our meal.
being the youngest, was usually left out of the field work because my
job was running cold water jugs out to them (my Sister and I both did
this for the thirsty Field-Hands also during Threshing and
Silo-Filling) in an old 1929 Buick
4-door Sedan (I learned to
drive a car, this way, at a very
young age). I had to put
pillows on the front seat to be able to see out and to bring the seat
full-forward to reach the pedals. All this had important alternate
utilities because I also drove the vehicle pulling the Hay-rope, as
well as running my Sister from the House out to the field to relieve
my Mother so that I could drive her back to the House before meal
the wagon was stacked full and now carried a very high load of Hay,
my Father would climb down the front rack and drive the Tractor from
the field back to the vicinity of the House. My Brother ususally got
a scary ride over pot-holes in the field or with the wagon leaning
heavily (tipping) from the curves of the public road or the private
lane. But with a rubber-tired wagon and the new, soft Hay, the ride
was a little bouncy but super-smooth ! If my Sister had been driving
the Tractor (or my Mother, for that matter) when a load was
completed, she sat on the Tractor fender while traveling back to the
wagon was pulled up to one of our three barns; each with a large
Haymow. The barns were equipped with a 4 " square beam sticking
out about 5 feet at the apex of the roof. On the bottom of this beam
was the beginning of a track together with a little "dolly"
with wheels. There was a heavy rope strung from the outside of the
barn through pullies up to the back of the Haymow and then along this
track out to the end where the "dolly" was locked in place
(on the "stop") and on down to the Hayfork
is where the 1929 Buick really
earned its keep. It had
double-duty compared to just hauling water because we also used it on
the Hay-rope, i.e., running it back and forth lifting big forkfuls of
Hay up into the Haymow from the wagon.
worked as follows: With the
heavy rope now tied to the bumper of the car, I drove the Auto
forward to let the heavy Hayfork drop down to the top of the wagon
load of Hay. My Father would grab the big heavy Hayfork and "set
it" by pushing it down into the soft Hay in the appropriate area
of the load. There was a latch on it that was "set" by my
Father so that little cross-bars would stick out into the load of Hay
and prevent it from falling off the fork. The latch had a long, thin
3/8 " rope tied to it so that the person on the Hay load could
"trip" the latch at exactly the right spot where the Hay
was to fall off inside the Haymow.
a wave from my Father at the top of the Hay load and I released the
clutch while in reverse gear -- slowly backing up and taking the
slack out of the heavy Hay rope. When the slack was gone, the Hayfork
started lifting the large "bite" of Hay up, up until the
Hayfork hit the "dolly" on the beam and was grasped and
locked onto it. The "dolly" then unlocked itself from the
end of the beam (the "stop") and moved suddenly inwards
towards the Haymow. At this very moment, I threw in the clutch and
because the momentum (of both the car and the
loaded Hayfork on the track) was quite strong.When the coasting
Hayfork arrived at the place where there was empty space for the Hay,
the thin 3/8 " rope was pulled by my Father and the load plopped
down. My Father waved and hollered "Stop" to me in the Car.
By this time I had already shifted into neutral gear and was
free-wheeling, so I merely braked to a quick stop.
was usually my Brother who was tasked to move the Hay further on to
the appropriate final resting place in the Haymow. My Father had to
pull this thin 3/8 " rope from out on the Hay load because my
Brother, inside, needed both hands (sometimes with a pitchfork) to
rock the Hayfork and yell "now" so that the "load"
of Hay could also
fall laterally (sideways) nearer to the
then put the car into first gear and moved forward while my Father
pulled on the 3/8" latch rope so that it brought the both the
Hayfork and the "dolly" on out to the end of the track and
the "stop."The weight of the Hayfork brought it down to the
load again. This was repeated numerous times until the wagon was
fully unloaded. As often as not, the Haymow was such a tangle after
the frenzied unloading, that my Father made it a point to climb up
and help-out my Brother in the strenuous positioning of the Hay.
a wild ride out to the Hay field (to get another load) in the
Tractor's high gear with the throttle wide-open (straining against
the governor) with my Brother and Mother (or Sister) hanging onto the
wagon for dear life! Without a load on it, a rubber-tired wagon
running on a rough path, would sometimes bounce completely clear of
the ground !
Summer season, the weather cooperated and we counted hauling 167
loads of Hay. Our three barns were "bursting at the seams"
with this bumper harvest !
were towedbehind a
It was dirty but
wire." becamea generic
As a teen-ager, people used to ask me me how I kept my ancient 1925 Ford Model-T running and I would reply: "With chewing-gum and baling-wire." That was no stretch of the truth. I once plugged a couple of radiator leaks with the gum and bound-up the front bumper with baling-wire where some guy had backed into me and busted the bumper clear-off on the right side! Twine
to that! My Father,
mechanically inclined) built an
other person would stack
story hay mow.
"block & tackle")
barns. . . which
won't know where to send it.)
Bishop's Biography and Story List
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