Imagine this — you're twelve, maybe fourteen years old, a skinny, wimpy, city kid and it's the morning of the fourth of July. As you lay snuggled in your bed, you think about all the fun this celebration will bring. Maybe you'll meet your friends at the swimming pool. Maybe Mom and Dad will plan a picnic at the lake with their friends and their kids. You'll swim and splash, possibly get together a game of water volley. There will be hot dogs aplenty and roasting marshmallows over the fire. Then at night you'll all gather to watch the fireworks. Yes, it's going to be a good, no great, day!
Then, without warning, the back door of your house flies open and you hear, “Hey! I need some help today.”
That would be Grandpa, and he would be needing help with the haying.
Grandpa also never knocked. No, it was a hearty 'Hey' as he came through the door. And if you didn't see him drive in, his entrance would about give you a stroke.
Anyway, as there was an age gap between me and my younger sisters, I had to go alone. I was teamed up with Kevin, a boy from down the road every year. We'd climb onto the wagon and hold on for dear life as Grandpa took off with a jerk, going as fast as the baler would allow. My job was to guide the bales from the baler while Kevin stacked them neatly in rows. All the while, you were trying to stay as agile as a surfer on a surf board because Grandpa drove that tractor like a bat out of a burning house. We had to stay at the ready for braking, the tilt and tip of the landscape, and once stopped, taking off as he gunned the motor.
Another challenge—Grandpa always baled the hay before it was completely dry so the bales were like trying to lift a pallet of bricks. My ability to hoist them was almost non-existent so thankfully, Kevin picked up the slack. Although, I liked to think by the end of the haying, I was stronger than when I started, but I honestly know I was still a pathetic wimp. How the barn didn't burn down from combustion or collapse is beyond me. You see, farming wasn't really Grandpa's forte, he was a logger.
Regarding the hay being picked up too soon, Grandma and Grandpa argued about this every single year. And their arguments could compete with the best of them. I mean it. She gave it her all, but compromise wasn't within his wheelhouse. The rest of the family just shook their heads because when Grandpa decided it was time, it was time, dry bales or not.
Once the wagon was full, we'd go back to the farm and unload to the conveyor belt that took the bales up and into the hay mow where Old Mike, one of Grandpa's workers, unloaded them into the mow, swearing up a blue streak every time the conveyor got stuck.
Now my sisters and cousins, all being close in age, were able to all get that early morning wake up jolt and work on the haying together. And while Kev and I made a good team, I feel like I missed out.
At the end of the day, Grandma, having been a logging camp cook, served the best meals. Her gravy was to die for. And after such a workout, it was a feat to keep my eyelids open enough to see the fireworks. Oh well, there was always next year. God willing, Grandma would finally win the argument.