It was Thursday morning, and David and I were getting our large hay wagon hooked up to our mammoth F-350 for a hay run. Trying to, at least. The wagon itself was in fine enough shape, but for a couple rotting boards, but we couldn’t find the adaptor for the lights hookup. The wagon wire connection was straight and 4-pronged, and the truck end was round. Somewhere, there was an adaptor. David, who had been a part of the last hay run, couldn’t remember taking it off. We called Oren. We called Kelly. We realized that Logan had been the last to use the truck. I called him, and called him again.
“Yeah, I took that off and put it in the truck.”
“Glove box maybe; I don’t really remember.”
“Well it’s not in the glove box.”
“I may have put it in the Shadow, then.”
“It’s not in the Shadow.”
“Maybe it’s the Ray then; I do remember taking it off. Anyway, it doesn’t matter if you have a slow-moving vehicle sign attached.”
“You sure about that?”
Lights seemed a bit superficial with a rig like this anyhow. Slow-moving vehicle sign it was. With great pains, we struggled through a mangled knot of twine; finally securing the sign in place on the rear frame. Asher would have been proud.
And we were off, to a guy named Jim Saddison’s place, for some hay. Remembering a warning that Oren had leveled earlier about the brakes, I approached our first corner slowly and turned on the blinker. Just for fun, I guess. Down that first stretch, we decided any two guys with hats like ours, driving a rig like this, couldn’t possibly run into any trouble for something so trivial as lights. We’re just getting’ some hay…
I’m not sure exactly what I imagined from Jim Saddison’s place, but what we found was a haymow. A haymow is a haymow. I immediately regressed a few years to my mid-teens, in early July, up in Dick’s mows with my brothers and cousin. Back in the present, David pointed out the rules to me. “Okay, so we can take the hay between this pillar and that one.”
It was a sad sight. I walked over the dusty layer and kicked around. Lots of loose hay and disheveled, neglected twine, but nary a legitimate bale in sight, save for a few small piles. We hooked up the tiny elevator, he hopped on the trailer, and I got to sending the meager smattering of bales his way.
In classic haymow fashion, it was dusty, hot, and frustrating. But nothing like the mid-summer’s heat of most hay-days. “Yeah man,” I told David, who grew up in the suburbs, “this kind of work takes usually place in the hottest part of the summer. You wouldn’t believe how hot it gets…” I reminisced back to my brothers and I – eating popsicles and taking dips in Dick’s pond between loads — and just how long and hard those days had been. Small wonder you don’t see a lot of people doing it that way anymore.
Back in the present, given our working materials, we had no choice but craft a masterpiece. David stacked the outsides of the wagon 3-high, then we forked loose hay into the middle opening, eventually unearthing another whole bale or two on our gradual descent to the wooden floor. Jim came out and hung around for a while, offering his insight and suggestion. “Yeah, if you could only… why don’t you… you could make a pyramid…”
Yeah, Jim, I thought, somewhat resentfully, we can make a pyramid…
But it wasn’t Jim who frustrated me; only the general state of things, and the inconvenience of the project. But I loved it all the same. Back to the days of Dick’s farm my mind went, as my body navigated the hay sinkholes and one-string bales. That place always had the feel of a rodeo, somehow, with someone always crashing a tractor, playing a practical joke, or ripping recklessly on a 4-wheeler. I thought about my cousins, and my uncle Eugene, who would always offer us a beer after we’d helped him bale hay for a day, though we were only in our early teens. I understand why he did it. The work is grueling, and, early teen or not, if you’re willing to see a bunch of loads to the mow, you deserve a beer.
Back in the present, though, there was no beer, our load was filling up, and we were speculating with Jim about some tarping options. He would sometimes leave for a couple minutes, then return again, almost in spite of himself. Though somewhat terse at the beginning, by the end I was sure he’d hop in and chuck a couple himself.
We filled the wagon; turned around, and filled the truck. Jim hung around; sometimes chatting a bit, sometimes just watching. I think he just enjoyed being around the work. He talked about his haying operation, years prior “… some of these bales are probably almost as old as you guys…” I’ve noticed a phenomenon where old guys sometimes just like to be hanging around the place where work is done. And who can blame them? It’s a special sort of timeless camaraderie, and journey to a simpler time, and a world which used to exist, right here in this very barn.
I suppose it’s possible that Jim just wanted to stick around to make sure we didn’t fuck up his elevator, or lose his pitchforks. But I know that’s not the case. In my mind, I saw gravel roads. A countryside full of red barns and proud silos; tractors and wagons; small crews of four, five, six people, seeing loads and loads of freshly baled hay into neat rows in dusty, humid haymows. Another long, sticky day of camaraderie; another year of security. A small community full of men and boys carrying out the rodeo by day, and swimming and drinking beers and eating popsicles by night.
It struck me that I don’t even know if people are doing that anymore. I noticed an old horse carriage in the corner of the barn at Jim’s. I glanced at him while he watched us work. I couldn’t help but wonder what sort of past he may have been reminiscing upon; what other gone-away world he’d lived through that I’d never even gotten to see. We got the truck loaded up, and hit the back roads for home, in a world that had mysteriously regressed a few decades, all in the span of one hay-day.