We had an 80-acre farm in Wisconsin that grew veggies for canning for winter food. We also grew wheat, corn, and hay for the winter critters. We raised beef cattle, had horses for fun, and a 4-H project with rabbits that got way out of control but filled the freezers with meat for a year (that’s another story).
One of my fondest memories growing up was of making hay. Now before you panic, let me explain. These were the old, small bales, the ones that usually weighed between 50-80 pounds and a normal adult could pick up and throw around. This process became a family tradition.
We were the family with all the land and all the equipment, so when it came time to doing something like making hay, it was an extended family event. Cousins, Aunts, Uncles and even some close family friends would be involved. The parents and older kids worked the fields, while the kids got to work up in the haystack in the barn (I know, we were ripped off!). The lower starting levels were not bad; but as the stack grew and the gap between the top of the hay and the top of the barn got smaller, the heat got more intense. I don’t remember anyone passing out, but I also do not remember anyone coming out of there dry.
(This is close to what ours was like, except back then there were no side racks, the hay came off the baler and we pulled it onto the wagon and stacked it. The wheels were also up front and in back instead of in the middle)
The only major issue I remember is at the end of one season; the kids were allowed to go out and ride the last wagon of hay back (huge praise for our kid work). My dad’s brother, Uncle Vern, was the tractor driver that day. The wagon was full, we were all on top, and he was cruising back to the house.
The road from the hay field to the barn had only one stop. The problem was it was at an intersection that sat at the bottom of a very steep hill (appropriately there also happened to be an old cemetery right across the street from where we had to stop – a very spooky cemetery!). Well, Uncle Vern knew how bad this intersection was so he had been watching the top of the hill as we approached. Instead of coming to a complete stop Uncle stood up, looked both ways one more time and then gunned the tractor. (Everyone hated that turn because you couldn’t see anyone coming until they were already over the hill and just about on that intersection…this is why I said the cemetery was: appropriately placed there – eeek!). He started the turn, was going a bit too fast, the hay on the wagon was not tied down (ya, no one even thought to do it back then), and we all tipped over! The hay and the kids flew. The tractor and, surprisingly, the wagon remained on their wheels.
UNCLE VERN STOPPED!
Parents from the house were watching from the top of the hay barn and saw us all fly. Immediately they came rushing down the hill to help. One group stopped traffic up by our driveway on the top of the hill. Another group went to stop traffic in the other directions. The rest ran to our aid. You should have seen their faces.
NO ONE WAS HURT – NOT EVEN A SCRATCH, AND WE WERE LAUGHING!
Yep, crazy farm kids, had a blast flying off the top of the bales into the ditch. It was grassy and semi-soft. We were on the top of the stacked bales, so nothing landed on top of us, and besides; we all had jumped from greater heights inside the barn into the straw pile. We thought it was fun – scary, but fun. Later, eventually, so did our parents.
(This is very close to what it looked like before the dump. The bales were stacked the same way, only add one more top row – 5 high – and we sat on top.) Ahhh, childhood memories!