Hot sunshine floods our hills, turning the grass on the lawn crisply brown and drying up the creeks and springs. Deer come down at dusk to drink from the cattle’s watering hole, unafraid in their desperate search for water. Late crops in the garden are withered and sere; even the weeds are drying in the sun. Heavy dew at morning refreshes the late cucumber patch enough to provide a few for the table, but the garden is gone for the summer. It is time to mow off the residue and construct a fodder shock ringed with orange pumpkins. The sweet scent of drying clover is carried on the breeze as the second cutting of hay is harvested. Modern methods of putting up hay are a far cry from the way we did it when I was a youngster. Today it is all done by machinery — cut, tattered (fluffed to dry) and raked. Then the baler spits it out in compact round or square bales and the job is finished.
We did it the hard way. (I am not saying that modern machinery has taken the work out of haying — it is still a hard, hot, backbreaking job using all the equipment available. Then there is the matter of equipment breaking down right at a critical time). We also had much smaller fields to cut. Cut down with a horse-drawn mowing machine, the hay was then raked into windrows. The windrows were raked up into small shocks and hauled to a stack-pole where it was firmly trampled down, layer by layer, all the way to the top.
Some of it was hauled to the barn where it was pitched by hand into the upper loft and stored for winter. After all that work, it was no wonder that Daddy forbade us to play in the hay. It fell on deaf ears of course, for how could any kid resist that fluffy, sweet-smelling hay? In winter especially, when the cold wind howled and snow covered our usual places to play, the barn was our refuge and comfort. We played there in the summer too. One of our favorite games was climbing up the ladder to the second story, running across the loft, and jumping out of the window onto the ground below. We did this over and over, one child right after the other, for hours. I wonder now why we thought it was fun.
Farming methods change, games change, and children change-but one thing stays the same. It’s the smell of freshly cut hay drying in the sunshine. The simple things of life bring the keenest pleasure-not only the fragrance of dried clover, but also the pink and lavender sunset at evening, a whippoorwill’s clear cry at dusk, the soft, feathery texture of a baby’s hair as its head nestles against your cheek — money cannot buy these blessings.
Our Heavenly Father supplies the greatest joy of all. David worded it perfectly in Psalms 16:11 when he wrote, “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” It has been many a year since we listened to the Grand Ol’ Opry on Saturday night, tromped hay around a stack-pole, and jumped out of the barn loft. I think those days are gone forever, aren’t they?
Cousin Alyce Faye