Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Remembering and Wondering

A couple of days ago, on my way back to New Paltz from Oneonta, I saw two empty hay wagons in a hayed field.  It's not uncommon to leave them in a field close to the next field to be harvested.  What caught my attention and triggered memories and questions, was the fact that they had high metal sides.  They were more a cage than what I knew as a hay wagon when I worked the fields.  The design allowed a baler equipped with a sort of catapult to toss the finished bale into the wagon instead of dropping it on the ground to be picked up by a worker and tossed to another on the wagon who would arrange the load as it grew so that it was both stable and full.  The container wagons received the launched bales any way they came, leaving gaps and filling the wagon with far fewer bales than their hand-loaded ancestors.  The advantage was that the only person needed to load the wagon was the one driving the tractor that hauled the baler.  

That triggered memories of my high school summers in the hayfields, sweating, shirtless, and itching from hayseed and chaff.  Usually there were three of us, one on the flatbed wagon and two feeding him bales from either side.  The pay was a dollar or two an hour, not a bad wage for  the latter half of the fifties, and it included a sumptuous lunch, and iced pitchers of switzel when we emptied a load in the barn.  By evening, exhausted after marshaling six, seven, eight hundred bales or more from the field to the barn loft, we collected our pay, hurried to whatever stream bordered or divided the farm, stripped and dove in, leaving a mass of hayseed and chaff floating on the surface.  Nobody went out to party after a day like that.  We went home and ate supper then went to bed.

Those three workers have been replaced by machines. 


Here I get to sound like all the other old codgers talking about "These kids today!"  

Maybe because I live in a college town, in a neighborhood populated by teachers and professors and their kids, maybe because there's some major difference in how kids manage their social lives, I just don't know.  It doesn't seem to me that many of them are looking for summer work.  Most of my friends through high school went looking for lawn and gardening or handyman work between haying sessions.  It gave us another source of income and wasn't nearly as hard.  I don't know of any teens in my hood who are out asking if they can mow a lawn, weed a garden, clean up the property, or anything like that.  As I said, maybe it is the college town vibe.

I kinda had to muse about that some.  enough for now.