Bailing Hay: a City Kid on the Farm

A self-described city kid learned the finer points of baling hay on the farm owned by his father-in-law.


| May 2006



baling hay city kid on the farm - tractor and hay wagon postcard

The scene depicted on this vintage postcard is typical of the haying experiences John Cole recalls.

John Cole

I had always been a city kid. My closest experience with farming came when "the farmer's daughter" became my wife, and I helped with baling hay.

As a young man, my regular job took me to St. Paul, Minn., each day to do construction work, so when the weekend came, that was "my day." My wife's only brother always went racing on weekends and the first year we were married, Lila volunteered me to help "Dad."

I usually slept in on Saturdays but getting up early was not a problem. I arrived on the farm at 7 a.m., and Erwin already had the tractor hooked to the baler. He also had pulled two other wagons out to the field and left them there, then walked back. Because I had experience using construction equipment, I asked him if he wanted me to drive. "When you own the equipment," he said, "you drive the equipment."

Upon arriving at the field, I had no trouble hooking the empty hay wagon to the back of the baler. I was quite proud of myself after we had completed almost one round. When the tractor stopped, I had hay bales stacked on both sides with a walkway down the center. Erwin got on the wagon and explained that the bales had to be arranged a certain way, working from the back to the front. It seems he used a bale fork that would pick up, I think, 10 bales at a time. He also told me that we wouldn't ever get done if he had to stop all the time.

I got pretty good at stacking. On the corners, it seemed, that's when the bales would drop to the ground because I couldn't reach them. I became skilled at jumping off and retrieving the bales before another one came. Having worked with my hands, I didn't use gloves. The twine didn't bother my hands at all. I had never owned a long-sleeved shirt, so by evening my arms looked like I had measles.

Changing to the second wagon, I noticed a board on the floor was broken. I mentioned to my father-in-law that in St. Paul, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) would "red tag" the wagon and it wouldn't move until it had been fixed. Erwin told me that if I stepped into the hole, I would know that it was there. He was right. I think it took three weeks for the scabs (which were as high up as my groin) to fall off my leg.