Summertime as a teenager always meant opportunities to make some money hauling hay. Big round bales were part of the future, and hayfields would be dotted with small square or round hay bales, all weighing around 50 pounds. It looked like money laying there to a teenager getting ready to enter college.
The first job I had hauling hay was one my dad lined up for him and me to do. It was a rough initiation, to say the least. The 70 pound alfalfa bales were not only heavy, but they tore up your arms, shirts and jeans in short order. The best thing about them was they stacked well, being tied tight with wire.
My friend Keith and I took on several hay hauling jobs the summer before my sophomore year in college. We had a diesel tractor and a big hay rack for the first job, and it wasn’t long before we had a routine of taking turns driving the tractor while the other one walked alongside the rack and threw bales onto the trailer. When there was a pile of bales on the rack, we stopped and stacked them. This routine let us haul about 500 bales a day.
The second job was done with a new Chevy half ton pickup. The routine was about the same, one of us driving while the other loaded. There was a lot more stops to stack with the pickup, and the pickup groaned as we stacked bales as high as we could throw them. Still, by the end of the day, we easily hauled in 400 bales in that pickup. We had a great boss. He let us take that new pickup to Pierre on Wednesday and Saturday nights to see our girlfriends. Kind of a fringe benefit.
The toughest job we had was hauling 100 pound alfalfa bales in and putting them in the hay loft of a huge barn. We had a couple of planks we slid the bales on up into the loft, then slid them across the floor to the back of the barn where the two of us lifted each bale onto the stack. We put 300 bales into the loft, all the while wondering if the feed was “hot”, and if the barn would burn down because of it.
The process of hauling bales is one you never forget. You soon learn how to use your legs to boost the bales, how to heft them up on your forearms before shoving them high onto the stack. It became a process you didn’t think about.
The most fun hauling hay was with my uncle’s team of Clydesdales. He hayed the right-of-way west of town, and he would gather his boys and me to walk alongside the hayrack and load bales while he drove his team. The speed was perfect, the work went along quietly, and the boy on the rack was never rushed stacking the round bales. It was a fun time.
We always put-up hay off our pasture, making the hauling a family affair including Dad, me, my son-in-law, and brother-in-law. Dad would do the stacking on the pickup; someone would drive and the rest of us loaded. One time when the load was getting quite high and Dad was sitting on the back corner of the load, my son-in-law, who happened to be driving, hit a hole with the rear wheel, tipping the load and Dad off the back corner. Dad was cussing all the way to the ground. The son-in-law was pretty quiet for the rest of the day, while the rest of us tried hard to control our laughing.
We usually kept a water jug alongside the haystack and would take a drink between loads. I don’t remember having a jug on the rack while we were hauling. We sure didn’t keep hydrated like we do these days. Never worried about it, never suffered from heat exhaustion. We were tough, I guess. Or foolish.