Back In My Hay Day

That noise you hear coming from the Keloland countryside these days is the sound of corn, soybeans and alfalfa growing. I’m told that on these stifling humid days,  you can actually go out and see and hear it happening.    But, I have enough trouble trying to explain to others how I enjoy spending my time; keeping one eye on the computer and the other on my window-side aviary, I’m sure if it included sitting in a farm field watching crops grow, my concerned friends and family would be scheduling an intervention right quick.
I know most of us could use some rain but a drive through the country sure reveals some great looking crops.
When I was a kid in high school, this was the time of year when I hated to hear the phone ring at our house in the morning.
Instead of one of my buddies calling to see if I’d like to hitchhike to Brookings and go swimming, chances are it was Cub Becker or some other area farmer wanting to hire me out for the day to help haul hay bales. Not the round bales the size of Volkswagens that you see today piled up in giant hay mountains. These were rectangular blocks of hay manufactured by a bailing machine pulled behind a tractor which tied them together with twine and spit them onto the hay rack it was towing where one or two sweating kids, with badly scratched forearms..would stack them up. When the rack was full, an empty one would be waiting at the end of the field.
I was a town kid and hated hauling bales but if mom answered the phone, she’d commit me to the job despite my pleas that I might die of heat stroke.
“Piffles,” she’d say. “A little hard work never hurt anybody..besides you want some spending money for our vacation don’t you?”
So, off I’d go mumbling something about child abuse.hay
Actually, some farmers..mostly my uncles..took pity on kids like me not used to such back breaking labor. They’d let the hay dry in the fields so the bales weren’t so heavy. We only had to stack them four high on the rack and, if we needed a break, they’d stop the bailer long enough to catch our breath and get a drink of water.
Cub Becker, on the other hand, ran his operation like a boot camp. He paid a little more ($1.25 an hour) but he expected a lot more from us poor schlubs on the rack or in the hay mow.
Cub liked to start early and work fast. He didn’t care  if the alfalfa was a little greener than when most farmers cut it..or if the bales which came shooting out every few seconds, weighed twice as much as anybody else’s.
If we were struggling to lift them into position and got behind..he’d turn around from his seat on the tractor and..like a Marine drill sergeant..start yelling at us about being soft and commenting on our manhood. A view from “the rack” where many soft town kids were tortured.

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But Cub was also the first one to trust me with the responsibility of driving a tractor and operating the hay rake. I’ll never forget the feeling of  fear..power..and satisfaction when..at the age of 14.. I sat atop that Farm-all “M”  in total control.
When I’d finished, Cub was waiting in his pick-up at the end of the field. He gave me a little nod and a wink.
His way of saying, “not bad for a town kid.”

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6 Comments

  1. The Mogen boys also were called into the Waubay area hayfields. That $1@hour seemed like a king’s ransom (since helping at Grandpa and Dad’s State Bank of Waubay earned us only an ice cream bar). We were big and got stronger with each bale hauling job. Loved the smell of freshly-mowed alfalfa and prairie hay. The mid-morning and mid-afternoon lunches broke the monotony of using the bale hook to hoist those 90-100 pound packages of cow food. Can’t beat the “farmer tan” look, either!
    Thanks for the great memory jogger, Doug.

  2. Our kids complained about the job then but now when we make the bales the size of Volkswagen we hear how much fun they had back then! Good memories once more Doug! Thanks!!

  3. My brother still bales “idiot” cubes and lets them dry. It was a lot of fun to throw them onto the flatbed and work up a good sweat :) Our little cousin asked if he could help and quickly learned why we wore jeans and long sleeves even though it was hot out. Good family memories!

  4. For two summers in the early 70’s I hauled bales for a West River rancher. I used his pickup, with “Idiot Blocks” single dropped in the field. The first year I hauled 12,000 in & stacked them! The 2nd year- the hay crop was short- he only had 11,000!! He liked to make his bales long & heavy because he paid by the bale to have them hauled! I would haul bales, kill rattlesnakes & pick rocks out of the hay fields!! At the end of the Summer I had an impressive rock pile loaded with fossils! Stu Surma, Java, S.D.

  5. I can remember my twin and I putting the bales on the grain elevator to move them up to the hay loft in the barn. Brother Howard and Gene Vostad were up in the loft stacking the bales. We girls didn’t know we were supposed to space the bales out and we worked the pants off those two trying to keep up with us. They never said a word to us. It was Bill Raabe that told us girls about it a few years later

  6. Thanks for the memories Doug! I just can’t convince the grandchildren that it was the VW, and larger, size bales that “city kid” Grandpa was picking up and tossin’! One in each hand of course from sunup to sun down! That’s my story and I am stickin’ to it! The DQ sold 3 footlong
    chili dogs for a dollar so the $1.00/hr went a long way.

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