Putting up hay back in the late 30’s and early 40’s was a big summer job off and on all season.
I remember this one time my Dad bought two fields of hay from another farmer north of New Winchester. This was probably about six miles from home. So, all hay equipment plus manual hands were moved to these fields. The equipment consisted of two tractors (one a Farmall 14 and the other a John Deere D that sounded as if it was about to die on each breath.) To start the John Deer, there was a small tank, which held gasoline attached to a larger tank with fuel oil. You stood beside it and turned a big flywheel that cranked it up then hurriedly turned the gas off and fuel oil on. The Farmall had a crank you inserted in the front being careful to where you set it as it would kick back and your arm would hurt, but not to the extent you got out of holding a pitchfork. One day you would use the Farmall and semi-mounted mower. Usually the following day you raked hay in wind rows. One fellow was on the John Deere and one or gal on the rake. That rake would do in a pair of tennis shoes in a hurry trying to hold pedal down to gather hay into rows then trip it fast to make sure it was back down as tractor driver just kept going. He would turn around to remind you, “Keep those rows straight.” I didn’t understand this, as we weren’t in a beauty contest besides we could still walk and follow crooked rows. Now came the fun part. We selected our favorite three-tine pitchfork. Well, three of the four of us did. We took our rag handkerchief from bib overalls and polished the handles. This cut down on hand callous. With one person on each side of the row, we doodle up the hay, trying to make each stack about the same size until you rant into curves with more hay someone made with that rake. Across the field we would work under bright sunny skies with temperatures and humidity the same – almost 100 degrees but somebody said good haying weather. But if it rained that night and after the sun dried the top of our doodles next morning, guess what? It couldn’t dry bottoms so we got to man our pitchforks and turn each and every one over. When dry this time, as there have been times we had to repeat if another storm came through by then, you lost a lot of good leaves and your cows weren’t happy with you. If I told them once I told them dozens of times, take it to a higher authority and don’t count Dad this time. We pitched hay up to the two on the truck. I wanted to ride, but they told me there is an art to getting a good tight square load on and not to pitch any of those snakes up either. I didn’t hear many sorrys between the laughs when those snakes came back down the handle of fork or when the landed on my straw hat.
We took little brother with us on a few of the trips. He promised to be water boy. The water jug we used that day (we had two) was dark brown with one handle on the side and a corncob for the stopper. No ice just water. The jug was always wrapped in a burlap sack and sat under a shade tree. We had no name cups. We all drank from the same jug. Mmmmmmmmm good.
Little brother wasn’t big enough then to do much work. He just wanted to be one of the guys and he was a lot of fun. I remember coming home with a big load of hay on State Road 75. It had a tar top and was smooth (real nice compared to our gravel road). Along State Road 75, there were signs posted: “Vehicles with Lugs Prohibited.” Little brother couldn’t read that well. He sat in the middle between me and older brother driving and asked what the sign said. Big brother read it to him and told him, “He would have to get out as he was one of those lugs on that sign.” He then stopped the truck abruptly almost throwing our other hay hands, who were riding on the front fenders off. They never rode on top of the load of hay for fear they would get raked off by the utility lines running along the highway. The lines and poles weren’t as high then. And they could sit on the fenders holding on by way of the hood ornament. They would have a tough time riding on the front fenders today and no hood ornament either. Little brother was afraid he might be put out of the truck and walk home. So, he threaded his arm through mine. No way was he going to walk alone. On our next trip back to the hay field we had no water boy – no little Lug – and no cuddles.
The lugs on the sign really referred to those big steel wheels on tractors and some equipment like plows had more cleats on their wheels.
We had a Farmall 112 made by International Harvest Company. It had lugs on the hind wheels and was shaped like triangles growing out of the steel wheels. You could work in the fields in all kinds of weather and never get stuck. But when you rode it on a hard surface where lugs couldn’t dig in, it was rocking and rolling. You kind of felt like a duck, but they still left their mark. Then came the rubber tire wheels. Lug signs disappeared.
Little brother can have the last laugh when he became of age with all the luxuries and almost all of the comforts of home. He made it. He no longer could be called a “lug,” just a fun loving brother. I could use those cuddles now.
Ma Ma June
(Editor’s note: My Uncle Harold and Uncle Raymond loved to tease. Uncle Harold was the oldest brother and Uncle Raymond was the baby brother and even in his seventies was Mother’s ‘baby brother.’ Ma Ma June’s Loving Daughter, Diana)