Written By Galen White
This was the time of year when those who wanted to work were separated from those who didn’t. Heat waves shimmered across the hay field while buckets of sweat rolled from the hay haulers. Crickets and grasshoppers, as well as field larks, didn’t seem to mind the 100 plus degree temperatures. Had it not been for the brief cooling ride from hay field to hay barn and back. I’m not sure any human could have survived.
You know, I very well remember it getting this hot back in the 1960’s as I helped cut, rake, bale, and haul hay. Numerous times my shoulders and back blistered through my shirt from the intense heat of the sun. Usually this occurred early in the summer and during skin usually tanned.
Cutting, raking and baling hay was done with a tractor, but quite unlike those you commonly see today. Ours didn’t have a cab equipped with air conditioning, power steering, CD player/FM radio, and other such luxuries. I’ve often stated that if we had tractors back then like some folks have today, I would probably still be in the hay field.
No, sir, our tractors didn’t even have an umbrella over the seat. In fact, the seat to the old Farmall I drove didn’t even have a cushion. I might point out that my rear end wasn’t nearly as “padded” back in those days, so when iron seat met scrawny seat …., well, let’s just say it didn’t take my rear many times of sitting in that iron seat all day long to remind my brain to bring an old pillow to sit on.
Running the mower wasn’t as bad as raking hay. The reason is that green, freshly cut hay seemed to have a coolness about it while hay dry enough to rake and bale was brittle, dusty, and seemed to give off heat. Regardless of what you were doing any semblance of a breeze was always a welcomed relief. However, if that wind was at your back and blowing faster than the tractor was moving, all the dust, pollen, dirt, insects, grit and grime stirred up by the rake would completely envelope you. Trust me when I say you can inhale a half bale of hay within twenty yards of travel!
Hauling hay was hard work, but you could have fun doing it, too. I have hauled hay with a bunch of different folks, and for the most part, had fun doing so. However, there were three guys that always seemed to get more done yet laughed more often than any of the others. Len Gantt, Vick Gantt, and Jimmy Woods were the three.
I was totally amazed at the amount of hay hauled in any given day considering the times we had to stop to catch our breath. We weren’t exhausted from the work, but from laughing. You know how it is; if you can really have fun while doing your work, you usually do a better job and complete the job sooner.
As I said earlier, August and September were the months that determined those who wanted.., or needed, to work. The heat was so intense that if you didn’t need the money, you wouldn’t be in the hay field. Many times we stacked bales of hay in the loft of a barn where temperatures registered 120 degrees or more. The tin would be so hot that if you accidentally touched it your skin would immediately receive a painful burn. Compare it to accidentally touching a hot burner on your over. As the old saying goes, “it don’t take long to examine a hot horseshoe!”
Well, I’ve rambled enough. Some of you may be thinking that this article wan’t very funny, and you’d be right. However, it wasn’t intended to be. It did allow me to reminisce how things once were, and I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts some of you remember those days just as well as I do.
Anyway, thank you for allowing me this privilege. You know, having the opportunity to look back and remember the good ol’ days can often remind us that today…, might not be so bad after all. How would you like to be without an air conditioner today?
Galen White has written articles for several papers in North Louisiana and is now retired.