Farmer Waves

Simple raised palms

Arms out pickup windows

Two fingers raised from

Truck steering wheels

Subtle, friendly gestures

One farmer to another

Techniques not important

Tanned arms hung out

Driver’s side windows

Hands, with palms down

Lowered to approaching

Farmers–meant short

Friendly conversations

Patience requested

They’d stop, talk awhile

Then, move on

Old Shed

shed

Blustery day
Turkey vultures
Circled overhead
Rode rising
Currents of wind

Undergrowth, briars
Reawakened, to the
Warmth of spring
All traces of
Human footpaths
Disappeared

 Country shed
In the company
Of faded fall flowers
Steel corrugation
Slowly, gave way
To oxidation

Ashes to ashes
Dust to dust
All recycled
Into the
Open arms of
Mother earth

SUMMER SLEDDING

I was a nine-year old boy riding atop a stack of haybales gliding across a field.  We were travelling the breakneck speed of five miles per hour–it seemed much faster.   School was out, it was the beginning of the busy harvest season.  …The hottest, most humid part of the summer.  Raising livestock required tremendous amounts of hay.  This was in preparation for long cold winter months and future drought.  There hadn’t been any freak summer snowstorms in the upper midwest.  Snow wasn’t necessary for our “summer sledding.”

Putting up hay was labor intensive.  Farmers helped each other out.  Area farmers used a unique homemade conveyance to transport bales.  It travelled on top of the ground.  Once moving, it was a smooth ride.  A wagon required more lifting.  Picture a wooden gate, eighteen feet in length and seven feet wide laying flat on the ground.  Construction was of sawmill oak, true dimensioned lumber.  Two by six slats were placed lengthwise about three inches apart.  A transverse two by eight cross piece was placed on top of each end.  Everything was bolted together with carriage bolts.  Evenly spaced U-brackets on the front secured the tow chain.  Friction polished the planks to a smooth finish.

A fully loaded sled could hold sixty to eighty bales–depending on the skill of the stacker.  It held the more common rectangular bales and smaller round bales.  It was an unwritten rule, the stacker was responsible for any spillage.  Re-stacking bales was an embarrassment.  The process was witnessed through the eyes of a curious young boy.  I was too young to help.  The hay stubble hurt the bottoms of my tender bare feet.  It required vigilance to avoid splinters and the gap between boards.  Older and wiser, the fun wore off.  I learned what a dusty dirty job it really was.

Nothing stirred the pulse of farmers like the competition of a tractor pull.  An official tractor pull used a rig with a sliding weight.  Resistance increased as the tractor moved forward.  The goal was to pull the furthest.  Our unofficial test, was starting dead weight with a haysled.  Tractors dug in and sometimes lifted front wheels off the ground.  The engines pulled hard and sometimes backfired when shut off.  I thought the sound was cool.  Our neighbors had different brands of tractors.  There were orange Allis-Chalmers, red Farmalls, red and yellow Massey-Harris, and green Oliver tractors.  I liked red Farmall tractors, just like my Dad’s.  Tractor brands were a sense of pride, just like automobiles.  At elementary school, boys brought toy tractors to play with, just like their Dad’s.

My younger brother and I hired out to local farmers.  We did what was asked–chopped weeds, cleaned out chicken coops, put up lots of hay.  It became friendly competition to see who made it to the end of the row first.  There were occasional interruptions for, dirt clod throwing, other spontaneous bouts of silliness.  Farmer’s wives served noon meals befitting a threshing crew.  Our ravenous appetites were satisfied and we didn’t gain an ounce of weight.  Wish that were still true today.  We were the descendents of generations of European farmers.  None of us farm today.  There still is no one I’d rather work with than my little brother.