THANKFUL THURSDAY-as suggested by geneabloggers. My aunt, Emma Bryson Morris, inspired my love of nature and my enthusiasm to share this joy with others.
My aunt Emma's neighbor, Frank, would hire me to help with the haying. When I first started going down there he put his hay up loose. He used a fork type piece of machinery called a Buck Rake. It fit on the front of the tractor and had long tines made of wood that stuck out in front of the tractor. It could be raised and lowered by hydraulics. He would drive the tractor along the windrow of hay that had been raked up and the hay would pile up on the tines until he had quite a large stack of hay. Then if he was storing it in a haystack he would drive to where we were building the stack of hay and raise the forks up to the top of the stack and my job was to pull the hay off, scatter it around on top of the stack and tromp it down. This was not one of my favorite activities. However, if we were putting the hay in the barn haymow, we would load the hay onto a wagon until we got a big pile and then haul it to the barn. At the barn there was a large inverted U-shaped piece of equipment hooked to a series of pulleys and ropes that we used to transfer the hay to the mow. The top of the U was hinged and the ends of the U were a little more curved in than a U. This made it so we could squeeze huge clumps of hay to the inside of the U. On Frank’s farm a tractor was hooked to the end of a rope and walked out from the barn. As the tractor was backed away, the U full of hay was raised up into the top of the barn where you pulled another rope that transferred the U of hay to a second rope that allowed you to pull the clump of hay to the part of the mow where you wanted to stack the hay. Then a third rope was yanked and the U spread apart, dumping the hay where you wanted it. Then someone would spread the hay out and tramp it down. At a neighbors that I sometimes helped with the haying they still used horses for this part of the job. My job with this method was to work the horse. I could either lead it or ride it to raise the hay up to the haymow. Which method do you think I would use?
One year I was pleased to find that Frank had invested in a hay baler with his brother. Frank would go out the day before we were going to bale and cut the hay. Then the next morning he would take the hay rake pulled by the tractor and rake the hay into windrows. The windrow is formed by a hay rake, which rakes hay that has been cut by a mower machine into a row. If the weather was just right we could start baling in the afternoon. The goal was to get the hay cut, raked, baled and into the barn before it rained. So when it came time to make the hay, I would ride on the hay wagon which was pulled behind the baler which was pulled by the tractor. The hay in the windrow is lifted by tines into the baler's pickup. The hay is then dragged or augered into a chamber that runs the length of one side of the baler. A combination plunger and knife moves back and forth in the front end of this chamber. The knife, positioned just ahead of the plunger, cuts off the hay at the spot where it enters the chamber from the pickup. The plunger rams the hay rearwards, compressing it into the bales. A measuring device measures the amount of hay that is being compressed and, at the appropriate length it triggers the mechanism (the knotter) that wraps the twine around the bale and ties it off. Another conveyer would then move the bale out onto a shoot that brought the bale up near the front edge of the wagon where I would be standing with a hay hook in my hand. I would reach down, hook the bale and pull it onto the wagon. Then I had to drag the bale back, lift it up and stack it. We would continue this process until we had a full wagon of stacked bales. It was fairly easy until you got to the front of the wagon and had to stand on bales and reach way down to hook the new bale and drag it up and find a place to stack it. We put up a lot of hay this way for many years. I loved working in the hay fields because we would often find baby cotton tail rabbits that had been disturbed by the hay making process. I would jump off the wagon when I saw one, grab it, put it in my shirt pocket where it would crouch down and be back up on the wagon ready to grab the next bale. I would take these bunnies home where I fed them with an eye dropper until they were old enough to turn loose. Making hay was hot, dirty, itchy work. I was always happy at the end of the day because I knew how good the water would feel when I jumped into the creek to wash and cool off. And for this marvelous experience I would get paid the magnificent sum of one penny per bale. On a good day we would do about five hundred bales.
I loved going “back on the hill” for the day. Sometimes I would take a lunch, two water buckets and my little berry pail and pick blackberries. I would stay out until I had both my buckets full. I hooked my berry pail (a small container with a handle) through my belt so I could pick with both hands. When I got the pail full I would dump it into the larger buckets. I knew where all the biggest and juiciest berries grew. I picked berries for Aunt Emma, Grandma Morris and my Mom. Aunt Emma would make the berries into juice and can it in quart jars for Grandma and Mom to make jelly and jam. In addition to making jelly and jam, Aunt Emma would make pies and a berry pudding. I really liked the pudding. She made it in a bread loaf pan and it had the consistency of cake. We would slice it and eat it with milk on it, hot or cold.
Other times I would just go exploring. I liked being off by myself, pretending I was an explorer in some strange lands. I always carried a paper grocery sack folded up small in my back hip pocket ‘just in case’. Sometimes I would bring home bits of moss, ferns, flowers and rocks and chunks of wood and make a terrarium where I could put snakes, toads, tiny tortoises, or strange bugs I found. Other times I took a net and would catch butterflies and other insects for my collection. I would tramp up hill and down; I especially liked to walk along dry creek beds that came down off the hills. Sometime I would find things like; an empty tortoise shell, small animal skulls and bones, and other interesting junk I would drag home. I wonder that Aunt Emma put up with all my stuff. But she would show interest in what I brought home and help me figure out ways to preserve and display my treasures.
When I would go back on the hill, I might be gone all day and never see another person or a house. There were deep valleys, thick woods with gigantic trees, and even a rock cliff. One time I was sitting up on the edge of the cliff and I saw something moving across the valley at the edge of the woods. At first I thought it was a large black dog but then I realized it was a bear. Now when I was a kid, there were very few deer or other large animals to be found. It is only after I became an adult that the deer, bear, and mountain lion numbers increased to where their sightings became fairly common. So when I went home that afternoon and said I had seen a bear, I’m not sure I was believed. If only I had had a camera. But it probably wouldn’t have shown up in a picture as cameras then were not like cameras of today.