|The old hay loader|
The rusty old truck we used for haying was far from the truck it was in its finest days. I can still smell the old gasoline engine and its pungent, oily-smelling exhaust system. It was a shabby-looking pile of metal with a seat made of springs you might actually feel if it wasn’t for the old carpets covering it. It lacked a door on the driver’s side, and the window was removed on the passenger side to allow for the free flow of air. The windshield on the old truck vented outward as well which helped the fumes filtering up from the floor boards to escape.
|Hay being fed up a loader|
As the driver, my job was to steer the dilapidated truck slowly down a row of hay, straddling it with the front wheels. Dad caught the loose hay rolling its way up the hay loader and distributed it evenly onto the flatbed until we had a full load. Once the hay was stacked to a certain depth on the bed, it also buried the driver’s view out a low rectangular back window. The only way to see the person on the load was to step out on the old running board and look around and up.
A sharp whistle was my signal to stop immediately. It either meant the hay was thick and coming up too fast or the truck bed was full. Or every so often a black snake would take a hike up and have to be pitched off. The worse possible scenario was when we hayed the side hills on our farm. If the hay was extremely dry and slippery, it shifted and slid off, taking Dad with it. That meant a delay, since the hay would have to be thrown back up onto the truck bed.
When at last, we reached the barn, a giant hay fork from a track, extending from roof peak to roof peak, was lowered and the hay was pulled upward, onto the track, and onward to the end of the mow where a trip rope would drop the huge heap. These giant forkfuls would then have to be again distributed evenly about the loft, outward to the corners.
Haying in summer meant hot days, muggy nights, and sore muscles. But the smell of newly mown hay or dried sweet clover in the loft negated all the sweat and hard work. And when the hay reached the rafters, you could look out the little window at the peak and see the fields spread out before you and the swallows gliding at eye level—and you thought you were queen of the mow.