Hay, those were some tough times

Gerald Krueger

By Gerald Krueger
Aberdeen

This morning, I find myself looking back again. Summer in the Dirty Thirties? We always thought winters were the most enduring of the seasons, but summer brought about the most drudgery of work. Nothing was assisted. All things associated with a SoDak farm was always “Armstrong” enhanced.

There was the mowing of hay with a 5-foot ground-driven mower pulled by two horses. Then there was the raking of the hay with an old dump rake that was operated by the driver of the two horses, seated on the rake with a foot brake to hold down the rake teeth so they didn’t skip over the mown hay.

Later on, we advanced to a tractor-power, takeoff-driven 7-foot mower with a dump rake pulled behind with no rider on the rake seat. Every few feet, the tractor driver had to pull the trip rope that dumped the hay.

Now that was drudgery. I can still feel my aching right arm after pulling that dump rope hundreds of times a day. I remember we used to hate it when the mower would plug up and we would have to back up with the dump rake tied behind the mower, because the rake teeth would bite into the ground and we would often break a tooth out.

Then there was the hay bucker, where we would have two horses each hitched to a side of the bucker. We would bring the bucked-up hay into the stacker. The horses would pull the bucker into the stacker teeth. Then the stacker operator would drive the two horses ahead and up would go the stacker. He would drive the horses until the stacker would dump the load of hay down onto the top of the hay stack. Then the stacker man would use his pitchfork and distribute the hay all around the stack. The driver would then back the horses up until the stacker was flat on the ground.

We never heard of giant stack movers in those days and, once again, Armstrong endured. We would drive the team of horses with a hay rack mounted on a bobsled, drive up beside the stack and, with pitchforks in hand, begin the laborious job of pitching that huge hay rack full of hay to feed the livestock with.

If it was a tough winter and the snow was real deep, the bobsled/hayrack would get out of the tracks, dumping its contents on the snowbanks. Then it was drudgery again. Get out the pitchforks and pitch the hay back onto the rack. Not fun to load the rack two times.

Oh, I forgot, before pitching hay onto the hayrack, we would lay two sets of chains along the bottom and dangle the ends over the side. We would come under the front eave of the barn and use a pulley hooked to a long rope that ran clear into the back of the barn, and out the front door hooked up to a team again. We would fasten a hook to those two chains and the horses would pull the half-load of hay up into the hayloft.

My, how we have advanced in feeding hay.

Nuff said.

Gerald “Jerry” Krueger is a retired educator, coach, commercial pilot and farmer. Email [email protected]