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The Disappearing Hay

By Stuart Cheney
One year about 1944 or ‘45 it was time to cut the second cutting of hay, more commonly called rowen back then. The farmer who lived across the road from where I live now, whose name was Dan, mowed down seven or eight acres of beautiful rowen on a field between where I live now and where I lived then, which is about one-third of a mile. Dan and my dad had been talking and he told Dad to mow the whole east side, and Dan would take it to his barn where they had an ensilage cutter set up. The plan was to pick up all the hay when it was dry, bring it all to the ensilage blower, fork it into the blower, shoot it up the pipe about thirty feet into the window at the top of the barn, and it would land on a scaffold at the end of the barn under the blower pipe. Dad was to get his share for helping.

Hay-making before the putt-putt. Stuart Cheney riding the horse. 1937.


The idear was that the barn was full of loose hay and by chopping it the hay wouldn’t take up much room and would all fit on the scaffold—maybe. They had an old big blue one-lunger engine mounted on an old waygon frame to run the blower, and Dan had bought a wooden buck rake that fit right on the front of the John Deere tractor. The buck rake has wooden teeth about eight inches long and also about eight inches wide. You lower it down and let it slide along the ground right underneath the windrow of hay. When it gets full you pick it up and head for the barn. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Dan’s son Neil drove the tractor. He was six years older than me and when the day came, we all got out there and one way or another got all the hay raked up. It was a perfect day, and they had the old putt-putt running and that big long belt was just a-flopping in the breeze. Two men were stationed with blower forks as Neil brought the hay in with the buck rake. He didn’t waste time, and as soon as he dumped off the hay and got turned around he’d jam it into high gear, and down the road he went. Well they soon found out that over near the woods where the hay was the heaviest it was rough. A few stones stuck up, so Neil stayed outta there with the tractor and they sent down the truck and a couple of men to get that hay. Things were going pretty smooth so far, and they loaded the truck, brought it up, and were dropping it off onto the blower table the best they could.
Of course before they started chipping the hay and blowing it into the barn, Dan told my dad to bring up his Doodle-Bug (hand-made tractor) and large hay trailer that went behind and back it into the barn right up to the scaffold at the end of the barn. That way when they got a big pile of chopped hay they could take their forks and push my father’s share right onto the trailer. Sounds good.
Well the afternoon wore on and Neil was making trip after trip, coming up the hill with a rake so full of hay it slowed things down a bit, but he sure made up for it on the way back. The only problem was when he had the rake loaded he couldn’t see a thing straight ahead and if a car was coming and they didn’t pull over and get out of his way—I don’t even want to think about that. But if you think that bothered Neil, well then you didn’t know Neil! Not much traffic back in those days and nobody’s car ever got impaled.
Came about six o’clock and all the hay was off the fields with a lot less work than usual and it was milking time again. We shut down the Old Blue putt-putt and everybody cleaned themselves off and headed to the milk house where all sorts of good cold things awaited. There was some nice chocolate milk for me, which I loved.
Oh boy! Now we’re headed into the barn floor to see the big pile of chopped hay—what a fun idear this has been.

Making hay with the tractor.


“Oh my God! Where’s the hay!”
Well I guess they had the Old Blue putt-putt stepped up a little too much and instead of making the hay into a pile it blew it all over hell. Now there was no more than eight inches to ten inches of hay on the scaffold and only three or four inches left on the haytrailer. Hay was all over the Doodle-Bug, even stuck up against rafters. It seemed the smallest cobwebs held a handful of dry hay. There is no way you can believe that all that hay should of made a small mountain just wasn’t there. Neil hitched onto Dad’s Doodle-Bug and towed it out of the barn before they dare start it up and start a fire. As Dad and I went on down the hill to our own barn what little hay was on the tractor blew off. He didn’t even bother to back it into the barn.
Moral of the story is don’t count your chicks before they hatch.
Stuart Cheney grew up on a 145 acre diversified farm near Brattleboro, VT. He resides on the farm in a small 5 room house built by his grandfather in 1940.

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arw225@cornell.edu

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