It is that time of year. Fireworks season, tournament fishing, baseball games, what have you, but the hidden holiday amongst all this fun — haying season.
As you drive across the highways and byways of North Dakota, one may notice the beautiful windrows of ample drying grass and alfalfas lining the fields. It is sheer joy that we can obtain this fruitful crop. The drought may have gone unnoticed to some, but for those feeding livestock and other grazing animals, this hay season is, maybe, extra appreciated.
During the haying season, there is ample opportunity to appreciate the vintage, and almost historic art of hauling, square bales. Yes, some may call them idiot cubes. While attempting to raise two young boys in this world, I look at these idiot cubes as priceless learning blocks that nature has provided generation after generation. One doesn’t use a modern-day Bobcat, skid steer, tractor, or four-wheeler to do the lifting, stacking, and transporting of these 100-pound loads of compressed feed. It’s all done by manual labor, heat of the day, always in a hurry to beat a random thunderstorm in a timely manner.
It all started with the process of having an operating pickup from the mid to late 1900’s up and running, hooked up to a flatbed trailer. This may sound rather black and white but rest assured, it had a lot of shades of gray. Female or male, we had a job cut out for us. Trial and error, jumping one cord to the next, fueling the gas tank, starting in neutral, maybe adding some extra special fluid to the starter, we were off and running.
Five hundred freshly baled grass/alfalfa mixed cubes awaited us. My boys were certain we could complete the task by noon. If my elder years have taught me anything, it would be, don’t underestimate the time it takes to get the job done. Steller out the gate, full of energy and running from bale to trailer, the two of us, (not much help but a cheering section provided by my five-year old) were as they say, killing it.
Transporting the cubes back to cover, only to restack a more manicured patchwork of a pile, line by line and row by row. Each trip back to the field provides our youth with abundant chances to learn the value of taking pride in work. One can see it unfold, as the sweat comes off their foreheads with fierce determination to build the haystack as high as possible, without a hint of shakiness or risk of the bales collapsing. Using physics and maybe some geometry, the art of stacking hay bales provides a true understanding of the ancient Egyptian pyramid constructors and their genius ability to build them.
As the country music was blaring through the open door of the pickup, my five-year-old son was sure to ask, “How does tequila make her clothes fall off?” I mean, what better way to introduce our youth to the realities of adulthood than by jump starting a truck from the 1900’s and listening to some soulful tunes?
Lunch came and gone; but we surely weren’t half finished. Finally, I expressed to my eldest son, we need reinforcement. We called for backup, his buddy, fresh out of football camp and dressed for the occasion in a tank top and shorts, equipped with leather gloves. Pleading that he change into some jeans and long-sleeved shirt, knowing he was going to go home scratched to pieces, the superstar athlete assured me that his mom summoned him to get over and help asap. He explained that he just didn’t have time to change.
The new blood in the crew brought great conversation of summer vacation stories that may or may not have been true. All the while, we pressed on walking from bale to bale, pitching them with skill and precision. Burning more calories than any solid-core, hot yoga, or football practice; we all concluded that Fourth of July hot dogs were going to taste pretty good.
Hauling square bales isn’t just about providing the necessary feed our livestock requires for survival, but it also provides what our youth require for survival. A sense of pride in oneself for getting a hard job done.
To those of you out there who are helping provide a chance for your children or the youth around, you have a job. Teach them a skill or require them to do something that some see as ancient.
My boys, star athlete and I, tip our hats and raise our hot dogs to you this Fourth of July.