Cumberland Now Volume 1, Issue 8 - Page 24

The magic & wonder of the hay field Just Passing Through by Jim Young Jim Young is a farmer, son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, friend, pilot, engineer and writer. He raises cattle and grandkids on his Cumberland Plateau family farm. 24 | Cumberland Now • September 2020 Since our beginning we have had to wonder about the stars, those lights in the sky that seem to sparkle and ripple with the winds. Stars are part of life on the farm. An old saying refers to working from daylight to dark. A man who makes his living from the soil knows that neither his worries nor his effort sets with the sun. But, working at night isn’t bad. It’s cooler. The bugs seem to take a break. The sweat of the day evaporates, leaving a cool, invigorating sense of well-being. The soul experiences a second wind. The whippoorwill and an occasional scream from a bobcat can draw a man’s attention, or serve as the transition to deeper thoughts. My best experiences in starry nights on the farm were while hauling hay. This was before round bales and hay spikes, and the task could take several days. After getting it in the bale, the hay had to be taken to the barn. You couldn’t let a rain catch it in the field or all your hard work would be ruined. Sometimes we worked all day and well into the night. Dad had his red-bellied Ford tractor. He had a trailer made from an old Model A Ford chassis. This trailer had ancient yellow poplar planks, grayed by the weather, for its work bed. In the hayfield, Mother or Sis would drive between the rows of hay bales in first gear. Dad would pick up each bale and pass it to me as I stood on the trailer. For the first layer or two, Dad really didn’t need much help. Dad could sling a bale of hay and make it almost always fall in its proper place. The third layer was roughly seven or eight feet off the ground, and I would then become marginally useful by taking every bale he threw my way and nudging it in place. Every layer was like weaves in a basket, with bales being paired in twos, like partners. To make the load stable we interlocked each layer, setting its bales at a ninety-degree offset from the layer beneath. The best part was that when the trailer was completely loaded, I remained “stranded” on top of the stack. Last bale on would be first bale off when we got the barn. I got to ride to the barn this way, having earned this higher perspective. Once the trailer was loaded, Dad would get behind the wheel of the tractor and drive us to the barn. The old planks and metal bindings of the trailer would talk to us, making noises I imagined were like those of a ship at sea. Pivoting from the centerline of the single axle, every sway of the trailer would become exaggerated where I lay prone on my back at the top of the stack. I felt as if I had been thrust into the night sky, and that I had a kinship with the cosmos. I felt like a guest, but one who was being welcomed back after only a short time away. Two worlds beyond our physical efforts would be merging. I was uniquely positioned to see it. The mist would rise from the ground, giving a surreal quality to our surroundings. The lightning bugs would flood from below, rising up and around me, mixing and merging with the lights in the sky. The bats would fly from their dark havens, intercepting the flying insects, weaving around like the jet fighters of today. I also witnessed an energy exchange. It was as if the sunshine had been worn out from its own exuberance and the stars had gathered to celebrate this void, to offer their small individual contributions as tender and seedstock for tomorrow. We were working while most others were in their homes having supper. But no one had more than I did in that moment. There was no want, no need. Ambition, the kind that drives a boy from home, was still slumbering within me. I was satisfied and happy. Dreams know no station. I would wager that a working boy’s dreams could out-pace those of many rich men.