Thursday, January 11, 2007

I'm a Tramper

Since the holiday season is past us and winter depression is trying to worm its way into our lives I thought I'd write a summertime reminisce... to get my mind off the cold.

Every year at our farm we had to put up hay so the cows would have something to eat in the winter. Usually we did this twice a year unless a drought or severe rain kept it to a single cutting. We were never well off financially to be able to afford one, and our farm wasn't that big, so we never had a baler, we put the hay up loose. The way it worked was like this; Either dad or one of my older brothers would cut the fields, then let the hay lay to dry for a few days. Then came the raking. That job took two people. One to drive the tractor and the other to ride the rake. The person operating the rake had a bit of an adventure, for the rake was an old one where you had to sit on a seat in the middle of it and pull a lever which raised the tines when the rake was full. The seat was always loose, which didn't help when you're trying to maintain your balance going over bumps, hoping you don't fall and get run over by the rake. When all the hay was raked into rows everyone would grab a pitchfork and gather the rows into large stacks. That was the start of the fun for the younger kids because we'd always run and dive into those stacks. Next, it was time to pick up the hay and load it into the trailer or truck. The older guys would toss it in the back, and after the truck got about halfway full the little kids did their job. The youngest kids were always the 'trampers'. We would walk around smashing the hay down to make room for more. It was something that was a lot of fun, a hayride in the middle of summer, but you had to be careful not to get a pitchfork in the leg when they threw the hay up to you. We were always excited when we got to be trampers. After the truck was piled so high that no more would fit on it would be driven up to the barn. Our barn was up a little ways on the hill, so to get to it you had to make a bit of a sharp turn and give it gas to make it up. One year my next-older sister was riding on the hay when dad went up the hill. With the truck swaggering back and forth from the ruts in the path a big chunk of hay - and my sister- slid off the top. I remember my brother racing over and digging madly through the hay to find her, screaming and crying but unhurt. From then on we weren't allowed to ride up to the barn when they were taking the hay up. So when the truck pulled up to the barn it parked under the haymow. There was a large opening at the top of the barn, then right below that was a small opening. We had a giant claw on a rope and pulley that was lowered from the large opening and guided by someone in the small window into the haystack, then clamped and lifted up and into the opening and dropped in the middle of the haymow. Someone would then stack the hay up on either side of the loft. The rope and claw only worked about half the time, and when it didn't the hay had to be thrown up through the small window and stacked. After repeating the routine a couple dozen times through the day, making hay wasn't as fun as when we started out in the morning. When I got older and had to do a lot of the tossing it definitely wasn't as fun as being a tramper. But still... how I miss those times.


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