You haven’t seen me around lately. No, this isn’t a repeat of last week’s column. Although I have been known to do that. The reason for my disappearance this week is hay.
Now, I know hay is not real exciting. Hay is not real funny. Hay is not interesting. There is not much you can say about hay. But, as in the “Forrest Gump” movie, when Bubba is talking about shrimp; there is alfalfa hay, CRP hay, slough hay, prairie hay, wet hay, dry hay, haylage, timothy hay….
I have to tell you a little about haying. Fresh cut hay smells nice. It’s the dang cutting that is a nuisance. We are cutting some old hay ground. It is rough. It is real rough. It is full of badger holes, mole hills, vole hills, prairie dog mounds, sagebrush, and other bad stuff. I wish we hadn’t started. Sometimes I don’t know how Shirley takes it. You start out early in the morning. And you think to yourself that today is going to be a good day. Like the song. A good, good day. You start off at 4 mph.
After one round you back down to three and a half. You are getting thrown around the cab like a bb in a boxcar. The second round you hit a fresh mole hill and get a little dirt on the sickle. Dang it. I hate that. The sickle on the mower-conditioner plugs. I really hate that. So does Shirley. The next hour is spent pulling one small handful at a time out of the conditioner. Your hand starts to fall off. You begin to realize that the engineer that designed this machine evidently never had to unplug one. You begin to curse him and his relatives.
You take off again. Glad to crawl in the cool cab and get a little reprieve from the sun beating down on you. You slow down to 2.8 mph. It’s a hell of along ways around the field and your water jug is empty. You look at your watch. It is nearly 10 a.m. If it goes good, you can go another eleven hours. You slow down to 2.2 because you are getting a side ache.
Then a bunch of little pheasant runs ahead of you. You have to cut a wide swathe around them because they are babies. You have to let them grow up so someone can shoot them. Makes very little sense, but makes you feel good for a little bit. An especially big molehill slips up on you and you bang your head on the side of the cab. The blood attracts more flies. You look at your watch. It is ten fifteen. Tears begin to form in the corner of your eyes.
At ten thirty you start to eye your lunch bucket. Down to 1.8 mph. The ache in your side is starting to build again. Maybe that beer in your lunch bucket will ease the pain. You reach down and open it. It is shaken up from the molehills and sprays all over the cab. You hit a molehill, drop the beer and it foams all over the floor. Flies like beer better than blood so they leave you alone. It’s nearly eleven. Beer is gone. Sandwiches are eaten. And you think that maybe you better quit. That hot wind blowing could start a fire if you hit a rock or lose a bearing.
And besides, lunch is gone. I’m quitting. Out of beer.