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In the SummertimePosted Friday, June 29, 2012, at 12:50 PM
I was driving into Nevada the other night from El Dorado when I noticed some lights way out in a field. Since I am familiar with the area and knew it was a hayfield and that that particular field was one of the few around that gets baled with the old, square bales, I instantly knew what the lights were.
Sure enough, when I got to where I could see better, there was some haying going on and the smell of cut hay and the sight of the dust rising up through the lights brought back a lot of memories from my youth. I could almost hear the baler chunking along and the truck's gears whining as it idled through the field in granny gear.
Like most young fellows growing up in a rural town, I made my summer money hauling hay. We had a regular crew that worked together each summer and we had many customers that we worked for for several years running.
We were just one of a few crews around Pleasant Hill, but there was enough business to go around. During the several summers we hauled hay we used every kind of truck and tractor and wagon and loader known to man. Then came the days of the big DewEze loaders that loaded and hauled the bales on the same piece of equipment. The normal hay crew was cut from five men to three. We knew it then but wouldn't admit that the end of our hay crew was riding on that big rig.
They slowly became the standard and the crews that had them took all the work we had, but boy did we have a lot of fun and make friendships that have lasted a lifetime. Even though there are a lot of miles and years separating us, I still talk to some of the guys I spent so much time with during those blazing, summer days and dusty, muggy nights.
It seemed like becoming part of a hay crew was a right of passage in small town Missouri; it was the only way for many of us to earn any money. And when I say we earned our summer money that way, I mean we really earned it. We regularly put up 1500 bales a day at 2 cents a bale. We did it day after day, and when it got too hot, like it is now, we put it up at night when it was cooler.
All of that and the memory of sore muscles that had been bucking clover bales all day, the sweet smell of a hay barn, the stink of a baled snake and the taste of cool lemonade provided by a grateful farmer's wife came back to me the other night, and it made me a bit sad that it is pretty much gone, but it made me appreciate the fact that I got to be part of something that now, 40 years later, seems like a piece of pure Americana.
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