Hayin’ tain’t like mowing grass around the house, fellas

— Photo from Larry Rockey

An old Case baler: “The kid on the right could be me without the hat, and the guy on the left could be Bambi hooking the wires,” says John R. Williams. “Hot, dusty work but we didn’t know it.”

On July 5, the Old Men of Mountain marched to the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh, but this scribe was not among them. At times priorities have a pecking order, and in this case one priority out-pecked another priority, and this scribe could not be in two places miles apart at the same time, no matter how the scribe tried to maneuver the clock so it could be done.

One of the OFs did send an email on what (the OF could remember) was discussed; however, names eluded the OMOTM and names were not on the report. It was reported the group was smaller than usual with the astute observation by the OMOTM that he thought the holiday on the fourth might have had something to do with it.

As many travel through the countryside in late spring and early summer, they may notice many of the fields have either round bales of hay or rectangular bales of hay, commonly known as square bales. As reported over and over, many of the older OFs in the group were farmers, and the current crop still has a few that were.

The question came up: How many square bales are there in a round bale?

Those who worked the fields just did the math in their heads without using numbers per se. Even the kids would figure this out without being told or taught. They would hear the farmers talk about how much hay was in the barn and if they had enough to go through a tough winter.

The OMOTM, as kids, never heard of round bales; some were even pitching loose hay with horses, or hauling hay to stationary balers. No matter what, the calculation was: So many cows ate so much hay whether it was loose, square, round, hex, or tubular.

The math on this would be: If a field produced 800 square bales, and the same field produced 40 round bales, there were 20 square bales per round bale. Pad and paper not needed.

However, farming knowledge required asking the following questions. Was it a thin year for hay, or a heavy year? How was the timing? Was it tender, or tough? Was it caught with all the nutrients in it, or late when not so much? What field looked like good feed, and another loaded with weeds would make better bedding or mulch? Hayin’ tain’t like mowing grass around the house, fellas.

Seeing as it is a hay day when some of the OFs were YFs and hay balers first came out, a feature of many of these machines was a couple of cranks on the discharge end. These cranks were used to control the weight of the bale. The tighter the crank — the heavier the bale.

Some of the fathers, or farm owners, would crank those suckers almost down to the stops so the bales would be really heavy. That would make for more room in the mows; same amount of hay, fewer bales.

In many cases, it was the kids who had to pick up the bales and throw them on the wagon, and again in many cases, another young-un on the wagon was mowing the bales away on a swaying wagon in such a way that a big load of bales could be put on the wagon without the hay falling off as the wagon bounced across the field.

So what the kids would do, at least on this scribe’s farm, was to sneak around and crank those cranks back up so the bales would be lighter when they went out in the fields to pick them up.

The scribe’s dad caught on to this so he cranked the cranks down just before they started out to bale. What fun.

This was many years ago; whatever happened to those years? The smell of fresh-cut hay, out in the sun, working your butt off from sunrise to sunset, loving every minute of it and not knowing it.


Carrying on

Another OF who has been mentioned before is retired from the Air Force National Guard and was stationed in Glenville with the unit that maintains the research facility in Greenland, which has been in the news a few times. This OMOTM was on the last mission out and brought back pictures of his trip that just ended.

The OMOTM who made a few notes has the same problem that this scribe does. When old folks get together, the conversation quite often turns to doctors and health, along with aches and pains.

In this OF’s email his comments and conversations eventually turned to doctors and health, aches and pains. Who would have guessed that, in a group with the name Old Men of the Mountain?

Those Old Men of the Mountain that made it to the Middleburgh Diner regardless of their aches and pains were: Doug Marshall, Miner Stevens, Marty Herzog, Jake Herzog, Frank Deez, Russ Pokorny, Rev. Jay Francis, Gerry Chartier, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, but not me.