By Joann M. Ringelstetter
Several times every summer, on our travels along the rural backroads, we are treated to the smell of fresh-cut hay. And this always takes us back to our childhood and baling hay on our dairy farm.
When we were young, we had a baler that produced rectangular bales that were stacked by hand on a flat rack hay wagon. It was hot, dusty, and noisy. One of us kids would drive the tractor and Dad would stand on the wagon and stack the bales as they came out of the baler. The noise from the tractor engine and the thrashing of the baler would drown out Dad’s voice (much to his frustration as he tried to holler out instructions to the one driving the tractor).
I began driving the John Deere tractor with the baler and flat rack behind it when I was in third grade. I remember not being tall enough to push the clutch in without standing up. I also remember wishing that my third grade teacher, Mrs. Wipperfurth, would drive by on the highway and see how grown up I was.
When we were in middle school, we moved to a much bigger dairy farm and Dad bought a throw baler like the one pictured here. This eliminated the need for more than one person in the field. Unfortunately, that didn’t mean we got off easy. It meant we were back at the barn trying to unload heavier bales that had been jammed into the wagon by the force of the throw baler.
Today’s balers produce a much bigger bale. Some are rectangular and some are round and they must be transported by machines because they are too big and heavy for a person to lift. Years ago, a friend of mine told me that she loved seeing the fields full of big round hay bales. She also told me she was pretty sure that they changed places by rolling around in the middle of the night. Who knows, maybe she’s right.