Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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Daughter of Ishmael by Diane Stringam Tolley

Daughter of Ishmael

by Diane Stringam Tolley

Giveaway ends April 08, 2017.

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Baling . . . Baling . . .

Add one brother and it's pretty close.

Not me, but you get the picture.
So to speak . . .









Eight years old.
In my children's day, that meant that they were allowed to dress themselves.
And bathe without three younger siblings in the tub.
In my day, it meant that I was now old enough to drive the tractor.
Pulling the baler.
My day had come!
My first lessons were a confused jumbled of clutch, steering wheel, gas pedal and 'Don't do that!'.
But I soon had it figured out and was able to drive a fairly straight path down the field.
Training over.
I was now ready for the real thing.
Dad directed me to the field where the rows of mown hay were nicely dried.
And ready to be baled.
I should point out here that we used a machine that popped out small, rectangular bales.
Depending on the type of grass, they weighed between 20 pounds (my favorite - made of prairie wool) and 90 pounds (my least favorite - made of something that resembled lead).
And were always moved by hand.
None of these gi-normous round or rectangular bales that you see in the fields now.
Bales that couldn't possibly be moved by anything other than a tractor.
Or Superman.
Who didn't live on our ranch.
Mmmm . . . Superman . . .
Where was I?
Oh, yes . . . baler.
The tractor person - me - was supposed to follow just to the left of the windrow (line of mown hay) and keep the pickup on the baler . . . umm . . . picking up.
Are we clear?
Let's start.
The hay is grabbed by little fingers rotating on the baler.
Then it is passed through the machine and tamped into a small, rectangular compartment.
Finally, the contraption manages to tie the bale with two strings of hemp string, and the whole thing is pushed out the back.
To where my brother, Jerry is waiting.
Jerry is standing on a stooker (small trailer) being pulled behind the baler.
The bales slide out of a chute straight into his arms.
Which he then stacks on a rack at the back of the trailer.
Four or five on the bottom.
Then one less.
Then one less.
Until a single bale marks the top of the stook.
Jerry then hits a leaver, which tips the trailer, dropping the neat stack off the back and launching him into the air.
I don't know about other stookers, but Jerry always used this upward motion to see how high he could jump.
It was very entertaining.
Or at least it would have been, if I weren't keeping my eyes trained on the windrow.
Ahem . . .
The only things I had to worry about were keeping true and not going too fast.
If one went too fast, the tamper couldn't keep up and hay would get clogged in the baler.
Which then resulted in a broken cotter pin.
And your brother running alongside the tractor and banging on the side to get your attention so he could put in a new one.
Or so I'm guessing.
It was a wonderful way to spend a hot July day.
The smell of fresh mown hay.
The blue sky.
Fresh, clear Alberta air.
Mountains shimmering on the horizon.
Your brother singing at the top of his lungs on the stooker.
And your mind busily creating all sorts of adventures.
A perfect world.
And discovered when I was eight.
From atop a tractor.

8 comments:

  1. Before we got the baler/stooker we used a machine called a "binder" which I rode, way high up, swaying along. It was pulled by the tractor. The little bundles would fall onto a platform tied neatly in their middles. When a certain number were on the platform you tripped it and they lat in the field waiting for the stookers to come anlong and stand them up on their ends. Every night I rode that #$$$@ thing in my sleep until the fields were done.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dad used a binder until just before I was old enough to help. So I missed it. But just barely. I baled in my sleep, too!

      Delete
  2. So, there are knot tyers for bales of hay. How about that. The operators in spinning mills carry small knot tying tools to make a knot when a threat breaks while being spooled up. We despised those "factory knots" as hand weavers. They had to be snipped out and a regular square knot tied. If you missed one, it could catch in the heddle or reed and break. Worse yet, if it wound up in the fabric it made an ugly lump and required two knots to repair as the warp threat now was a finite length. How interesting, our everyday lives, so different but only one degree separated.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't it amazing how much we have in common? Coming from two such different backgrounds . . . A broken string or badly tied knot was such a pain. Then you'd have to pull the strings right off and push the whole bale through the baler again. Ugh!

      Delete
  3. I think this is the best life. I would love to sit in a tractor and mow hay all day. What a nice life.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Eight years old. Wow. My dad has told stories like yours about growing up on a farm and haying. What a different world our children have grown up in!

    My dad loved switchel-made with water, vinegar and ginger, I think-and he thought it was so refreshing! Can't say as I would say the same...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmmm . . . my father-in-law used to take a milk jug and fill it almost full of water, then freeze it. Then the next morning, as he was headed out to the tractor, he would take the jug and fill it the rest of the way with water. He had cold water that lasted most of the day! Switchel sounds . . . interesting! :)

      Delete

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Diane was born and raised on one of the last of the great old Southern Alberta ranches. A way of life that is fast disappearing now. Through her memories and stories, she keeps it alive. And even, at times, accurate . . .

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