Making Hay While The Sun Shines

Posted: Wednesday, July 15, 2009 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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That noise you hear coming from the Keloland countryside is the sound of corn, soybeans and alfalfa growing.
I know that some farmers have suffered hail and wind damage because of all the storms passing through over the last several weeks but in the fields that have been spared, I don’t remember ever seeing such rapid crop growth thanks to bountiful rainfall and hot sunny days.
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.
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 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.
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 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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