By Rick Houser –
Being raised in a rural area meant I got to work in just about all the tasks that the farm had to offer. Of course, raising tobacco was our main crop, referred to as our cash crop. Along with the burley we raised a lot of corn and fed a lot of cattle and hogs, along with a good share of wheat. To me though there wasn’t a farm job I liked more than baling hay.
I was born in the month of June and was born at home. From my I was told that I was born right in the middle of hay baling season and that when the help arrived the morning after my arrival, all the neighbors who were helping bale the hay came in to see me. Whether it is true or not really doesn’t matter, but to a little boy being told he was so important that everyone paused from their work, sure did give me cause to feel mighty important. As a matter of fact, I guess I got the feeling that hay and I had a connection of some kind, so maybe that was why I liked baling so much.
I need to make this clear that the hay baling I’m talking about was the traditional square bales and not the large round bales of today. Hay baling in my day was where man power was still needed and when the baler arrived to the field, a crew arrived with the wagons. Around the end of May until the end of summer, a man on a tractor pulling a hay baler along a wind row of new mown hay could be seen almost anywhere. As a matter of fact, if you didn’t see the field your nose would smell that undeniable fragrance that freshly mowed hay gives off. Not only undeniable, but unforgettable. It is an aroma that in my opinion tells you exactly what is happening all in one sniff. It is safe to say there are not that many scents that can claim that honor.
In my early years we hired a man to come to the fields and custom bale our hay for us for so much a bale. Custom baling was a big business as these were still the years of converting from farming with a horse to a tractor and the cost of some equipment was more than many farmers would or could afford. But as I got into high school and entered the FFA, I decided to buy a baler and a rake. This way I could bale my hay close to its prime and have prime hay to sell. I also began custom baling myself and I made a little extra that would go towards paying for my equipment. It is safe to say I liked being the man on that tractor pulling the baler across the field. It seemed better than the man tossing the bales onto the wagons.
To this day there is still something about a field of hay that has been raked into windrows to look so in line and in order. When you are in that field that awesome smell of new hay is all around you to a point that you almost forget where you are and why you are there. If there is anything that looks better it might be seeing a field of hay totally baled. With row after row of baled hay all you see is a world that is in a perfect order (that is something that can be hard to find anywhere).
The part about baling of hay to me that rose above all these wonderful sights was when the men had loaded a wagon full of hay, tossed a rope from the back to the front, and tied it down so it would successfully make the trip from the hay field to the barn where it was to be stored. Once that load was secured, we would climb up to the top of the load which probably was four or more bales in height. Once on top you could just sit there and look out over all the land around you as far as you could see and in being on the top of the load you got to look at your world unlike you usually saw it.
I must admit from on top of the load your view of the world and your way of thinking momentarily changed to a point where you stepped back from the day to day way of seeing life. If you were one of the hands that loaded the hay (and I was a hand so many, many times)and you got to take a break from the hard labor on a hot day and catch a refreshing breeze, you could get a second wind so when you reached the barn the unloading and stacking was a bit easier. Of course, from entering the field to coming out of the barn with the wagon empty, that unique aroma of the hay never left you.
Even though we made more money on tobacco, it had a fragrance that was anything but nice. Wheat doesn’t have a great fragrance and corn really doesn’t either. As a matter of fact our cows and hogs also left a lot to be desired when it came to that pleasant scent. Nope, only a field of hay can deliver that. Even if the hay is scratchy and itchy and the days so hot that the sweat would burn your eyes, I still can put that aroma ahead of them all. Most of all I will always think back to riding on the top of a load of hay and looking down on creation. How can that sight ever be forgotten?
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. If you wish to read more of his stories they can be found in his two books “There are Places to remember” and Memories ARE From the Heart”. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.