Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Little Hay in the Teeth

If you look closely...
Today is my Dad’s 89th birthday.
That’s significant.
What else could I do but tell a story about him . . .
It was haying season.
In my day, that meant teams of two, one driving the tractor, one stooking.
In Dad’s day, it involved numerous men, horses, and hours and hours of back-breaking work.
This story is about Dad’s day.
The horse-pulled mower had been over the hayfield, cutting the long grasses.
They had been allowed to dry where they lay.
Another horse-powered machine, a rake, had been pulled over the area to turn and fluff and gather the still-drying grasses.
I should mention here that grasses have to be totally dried before they can be gathered and stored. Wet grass heaped into a pile will rot and stink and generally be disparaged by discerning cows.
Think of kids and broccoli.
Yeah. Like that.
Just FYI.
But I digress . . .
Teams of men and horses were gathering the well-dried grasses, heaping them into wagons and hauling them to the main stack, where the hay sling (exactly what it sounds like) would be manoeuvered into position, pick up the hay, and swing it atop the big stack.
It was heavy, exacting work. The hay had to be stacked just right so it would stay in place and cure properly.
Dad’s brother, Bryce, had been the man atop the stack, directing the big sling.
He had other duties, so turned over the pivotal job to his baby brother.
My dad.
For the first three minutes, all went well.
Then the hay sling brought up a load.
It zigged.
Dad zagged.
And the long pole smacked him right in the mouth. Knocking his heretofore (Ooh! Good word!) buck teeth backwards into his mouth.
Don’t you hate it when that happens?
I’m sure there was pain and a lot of blood.
I know there was an attempt to press said teeth back into a proper position. An even better position than before. With partial results. One tooth 'took'. The other didn't.
Finally, Dad was hauled to the family dentist and a new tooth, on an intricate framework, was installed.
As good as the old one. Almost.
At least it looked right.
From that day forward, Dad had a conversation starter.
Or stopper.
He would hide his tooth and grin.
Or hang it out over a lip.
Okay, well, we kids thought it was hilarious.
And isn’t that what being a dad is all about?
Happy Birthday, Daddy!
Slinging. See the guy on top?
Brings a whole new meaning to 'Watch your mouth'.


Raking.

Collecting.

19 comments:

  1. What a great story. It's those things that don't seem to be monumental that sometimes just bring a smile to our faces. Happy Birthday to your dad.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So true. Little things that tell such a good story 80 years later! :)

      Delete
  2. Nothing like having a conversation piece on hand at all times....Happy Birthday Diane's Daddy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Only a guy, right! :) Thank you! I'll pass it on!

      Delete
  3. Ah, man...haying! One of my favourite, yet also least favourite jobs on the farm. And your dad sounds like such a fine man--wish him a happy 89th from me!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Awwww…poor guy! I'll bet that hurt but I'm sure it provided a LOT of stories!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What's a bit of pain if it provides years of story-fodder. Right?

      Delete
  5. Who knew that such a disaster as losing a tooth could become a great social asset??

    Happy, happy birthday to your dad!

    Now see if you can find out the story behind the picture at the top ...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! I'll pass it on! And you're right. I must find out what he was up to in that picture . . .

      Delete
  6. Oh yes, I remember haymaking time on the farm only ours was using tractors and by then haybalers were in use to make the oblong bales. It was dry, dusty work and we worked with one eye on the weather. If it rained the hay was ruined. Generally all the farmers in the region would help each other and it was the wives' job to cook up huge dinners of steak, eggs and chips with slabs of fresh bread and gallons of tea to wash it all down. It was a hard but good life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was the one on the tractor. I loved it! I would have loved the sense of 'community' with all of the families working together. We did that with brandings. It was the highlight of my year!

      Delete
  7. I've seen hay gathered like that in oldtime movies, certainly a full week's work involved. I've also heard of hay stacked before being properly dry spontaneously combusting. Getting it thoroughly dry is so important.
    I've had my front tooth missing since I was 17, have a plastic one on a plastic plate, but I've never really got used to it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gaah! Can you just see all your hard work going up in smoke?! Dad's tooth is on a wire frame. we've seen it out of his mouth almost as much as in!

      Delete
  8. Replies
    1. He sure did! And we kids thought it was hilarious. Then he started in with the grandkids and they thought it was even funnier! Now the great-grands are beginning. They love their Grape-Grampa!

      Delete
  9. +Diane Tolley I look forward to your post more than anyone's. You tell the best stories! I'd love to be your neighbor!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry tell your dad Happy 89th BIRTHDAY! My mom will be 78 on the third.

      Delete
    2. Thank you Rena! You have no idea how encouraging your words are! At least we can be blog neighbours! :)
      P.S. Please tell your mom Happy Birthdaycake from me!

      Delete

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