In the month of June, haying season hit full stride on the farm, so it’s about time that I include this 1935 photo.
Bennie, with fork in hand, stands atop the hay load on the right. He is “assisted” by Odell, Sidney, Conrad, and Gertrude also on the hay wagon, with Mabel on the ground holding the rope. I didn’t get the name of the horse.
If this hay operation is like the ones I remember from the fifties, the rope Mabel is holding controls a large fork that comes down and grabs part of the hayload. Then a horse pulls another rope to lift that forked hay up and into the haymow. The fork follows a track through the peak of the barn until it reaches the place where the farmer wishes to drop it. Then he yanks the fork rope (Mabel’s) and the hay is released. He still has to “mow” the hay, or move it with a fork like Bennie’s to a place off to the side. I remember there was a skill involved here, that the farmer had to pile the hay in proper layers so that he could more easily access it again during the winter. If this weren’t done right, two or three times the hard work would be involved to dig it loose.
As I look at the horse (probably one of a team), I found myself wondering what farm work Emil and his sons did with horses, and what they did with the tractor (a 1923 Fordson purchase). I assume the heavier tasks like plowing were tractor work.
Thinking back to an earlier time, I am reminded that oxen like Bertinus Estensen’s lost their usefulness when new farm machinery required a faster pace. Oxen were powerful but plodding; the working parts of mowers (for hay) and reapers (for oats) needed the faster gait of horses. In 1935, Emil may have still used horses for cutting the hay that filled this wagon. Perhaps Sid remembers.
The hay in this photo actually looks good, but I remember a long-ago conversation with my father Garven about the drought years of the thirties. He described miserable hay purchased from the Dakotas, cut from the roadside, filled with weeds and sticks, but still costing as much as quality alfalfa hay was getting in the late fifties.