Oh, the joy of buckin’ bales. Thanks to mechanization, few strapping young lads will have the pleasure.
Heat is one thing and sweat is another. My general preference for keeping the two separate was impossible. The icing on the cake was the layer of itchy chaff covering every inch of exposed skin. That same skin was often victim to pokes and scratches from sharp stems protruding from the bales. On the bright side, lifting 50-80 pound bales head-high does great things for muscle tone.
Looking back, I realize my agricultural career was a varied one.
When I was in the fourth grade the family moved to a farm and I found myself in a whole new world. I had chores after school while city kids were at sports practice. I learned to drive a tractor long before I drove a car. The three years we lived there seem like a lifetime — full of memories.
Like the time I thought I’d make short work of feeding the hogs before school by mixing up the ‘slop’ the night before. It turns out ‘slop’ is a very descriptive word. What I didn’t realize was that the mixture of food and water was going to grow as I slumbered. As it exceeded the containment of the buckets it spread a sloppy mess all over the back porch. So much for that idea.
At 12 or 13 I made a dollar-something an hour pulling tassels out of corn. The mutual crush with Frankie Anderson was a nice benefit, but unrequited. I wonder what happened to her.
At 14 dad rented a 20-acre parcel and our old place of about 110 acres that I would farm under his direction for my summer job. My olive green 1959 Chevy Biscayne wasn’t an appropriate vehicle and we started shopping for an El Camino. Yes! Of course, my pick was the bright yellow SS 396 with black racing stripes, bucket seats, and a 4-speed. What I got was a baby blue 6-cylinder with ‘three on the tree’. Not cool, and worse yet the bed was always filled with farm stuff. Totally not cool.
Sometime during that summer, the boss fired me. To prove I could make it on my own, a buddy and I got work picking cherries. I think I made three bucks on that deal because I ate the bulk of my wages. I love cherries. Dad saw the light after a few days and rehired me. More like, ‘get your ass back on the farm tomorrow.’
At 15 I lived away from home on a big farm south of town in what amounted to a cinderblock shack. I stumbled through mud morning and night changing sprinkler pipe — not the fancy kind on wheels, but the old-school stuff you break apart piece by piece and move to the next position. It sucked.
It was a relief to leave the sprinkler job and go to work for my dad at his seed warehouse. Things were so much more fun before OSHA when the foreman could get away with chasing you on his forklift with blades set at the perfect impalement height. Oh, the antics and hilarity we shared!
My ag career culminated with the ‘summer of delirium’ and my job at an aerial application company. If I wasn’t mixing one chemical or another and loading an airplane, I was the pilot’s human target at the end of the field. If the wind came up and we couldn’t fly, I surveyed new fields for when we could. I’ve never been that sleep-deprived, ever.
My, how many things have come to mind while writing about this one picture.