My son gave me a present this week — sort of.
He let me drive the truck while he and some friends picked up hay bales on the farm near Wellsville, Mo.
Matthew laughed about it being a return to my glory days, but for me it was a pleasant trip back to a time when I was one of many teenagers picking up hay bales and making some solid summer money.
In those days, farmers either made what they called square bales, which actually were oblong, or round bales, which were more like large Tootsie Rolls, one of their nicknames. Round bales had many nicknames, most unmentionable, because their awkward shape made them difficult to pick up and stack, and they required a steel hook to handle.
Anyway, all I had to do for my son was drive his truck, in super low gear at about 2 miles mph. I didn’t even have to touch the gas pedal, just occasionally turn the steering wheel. I didn’t even have to touch a bale except one time when I pushed a couple off the truck during unloading and even that reminded me of how heavy those things could be.
He normally rolls his hay into big round bales because you can pick them up with a tractor and there is no man-handling required. But this was alfalfa for the horse crowd. Even then he usually rolls up the first cutting because horse-lovers around here prefer the second cutting. But some were in need and willing to buy and pick up their own, so he baled some square bales.
He always ends up having to store some of those bales, which means picking them up, unloading them in his shed and stacking them again.
Sometimes he gets local kids to help, most of whom have never touched a bale of hay before. They are amazed at how heavy something made of grass can be. If they last a day, they rarely come back.
But usually it is fellow farmers and friends who help out as they share labor back and forth.
I had forgotten how dirty it could be, but if I concentrate I can remember coming out of hot barns after unloading hay, covered with dirt and coughing to clear my throat.
Having a bath after coming in from hauling hay would leave a dirty ring around the tub, which I assume my mother dutifully cleaned up because the next night the tub would be clean when I ringed it again.
If I block out all the hard work, sweat and dirt, I can remember some pretty good times horsing around with my fellow workers. But that is a good part of getting older. With a little effort, rosy memories can cloud out the hard times. Even when hauling hay, and especially when you don’t have to lift any bales.