Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

They Don't Make Hay the Way They Used To

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

They Don't Make Hay the Way They Used To

Article excerpt

A SADNESS prevails as I drive our Maine countryside in haying time and watch the lads disport. It is not now as it hath been of yore, as the poet puts it, and trucks are loaded by forklifts to race pell-mell to the barn and be unloaded by elevators. The charm of haymaking has certainly evaporated.

In my time, he who built load pitched off at the barn - he had to dispose each forkful of hay so the load would be balanced and wouldn't slide apart halfway to the barn. He thus knew how things were layered and pitched off accordingly. The rest of us walked the field and pitched up to him, and then at the barn we went into the mows and stowed. But now all that lore is lost. It's a crying shame that not one little farm boy of this dreary day will ever know what it was like to lead the horse for the hay-unloader - known as a track-fork. We had such in the peak of our barn, long superseded by mechanical improvements I know nothing about - happily.

I was seven, going on eight, the first summer I was accorded the great honor of leading Tantrabogus back and forth for the track-fork. Until then I had done no more at haying than "tread the mow" and fetch the switchell jug from the spring. Switchell was a mixture of oatmeal, molasses, and spring water deemed helpful in assuaging hayfield thirst, but so many years later I recall it with a shudder. Now, I was old enough to do my part, and as child labor was not then considered evil, I was invited to handle old Tanty.

Tanty was the nigh horse of the heavy team, and was going on 30 years. He weighed over half a ton and his hoof was the size of a bushel measure. Having assisted in bringing the load of hay from the field to the barn, he was now unhitched and worked single to pull the rope on the unloader. His mate, Malchizedek, bided until the load was off and Tanty should return. Tanty, even though he slept most of the time, was almost equal to working the hay-fork rope alone, like a "twitchin' horse," so the most important part of leading him was to keep my tootsies out from under. …

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