Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



Friday, June 13, 2014

To Bale Some Hay

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.
There were 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 was grabbed by little fingers rotating on the baler.
Then it was passed through the machine and tamped into a small, rectangular compartment.
Finally, the contraption managed to tie the bale with two pieces of hemp string, and the whole thing was pushed out the back.
To where my brother, Jerry was waiting.
Jerry was standing on a stooker (small trailer) being pulled behind the baler.
The bales slid out of a chute straight into his arms.
Which he then stacked 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 marked the top of the stook.
Jerry then hit a leaver, which tipped 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 shear 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 newly-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.
Discovered when I was eight.
From atop a tractor.

20 comments:

  1. I never did learn to drive the tractor.

    ReplyDelete
  2. So nice...my memories of haying aren't as high-tech! It basically involved my aunt driving the ancient Jeep pickup truck around the fields, while we used pitchforks to toss the cut hay up onto the flatbed. It would get hauled to the barn, tossed onto the hay mountain already accumulated there, and then we'd start again. Hot, sweaty work, but I still loved it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't it amazing that, even though the work was hot and sweaty, all we remember is that we loved it?!

      Delete
  3. Wow - that's a lot of responsibility. I was driving at about 10 years old, but it wasn't a tractor and I wasn't doing productive work. My father was a mechanic and had numerous working/non-working vehicles around all the time. I learned to drive a jeep and a VW bug in the field next to our house - so I understand about the clutch, steering wheel, gas pedal AND brake (!), even though I never made it out of first gear :) I can't drive a standard now for love nor money. But I bet YOU can!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can just picture you trying to peer over the dashboard! P.S. I think cars are WAY more complicated to drive!

      Delete
  4. Farm and ranch kids mature earlier, I think.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In some ways. In others, we're hopelessly behind! :)

      Delete
  5. I never did any baling myself but I helped feed the crew when it was done and that had to be at least as much work. I do remember that smell though and other really good memories from spending time on my aunt and uncle's ranch in Nebraska. Thanks for the memories.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ugh! Feeding the crew! This definitely IS more work!

      Delete
  6. I'm pretty sure I couldn't even drive it now. Very impressive!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Can you imagine now, that would just not happen! So what is a baler?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're so right, Haralee! Most people probably think hay just naturally comes in those little packages! :)

      Delete
  8. Amazing that you got to do this when you were only eight!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I look at my 8-year-old grandkids now and think: No Way!

      Delete
  9. sweeeet!!!
    do you follow each other?
    let me know!
    http://defishencia.blogspot.ru/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Daria! Thank you for visiting! We DO follow each other!

      Delete
  10. It was 12 with me. I drove the tractor and the old farm truck some of the best and worse times of my life.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Wow! Eight and driving a tractor. Wow.
    The only memory I have of hay is sitting on top of a huge stack just under the shed roof and listening to the rain pounding down, wishing I'd gone back into the house already.

    ReplyDelete

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