Originally posted June 30, 2012
Summer was upon the homestead nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. School was out for the next few months. There was plenty to keep the kids busy. The boys ten-years-old and older were sent to cut, bale, and put up the hay. JR drove the tractor to cut the hay and pile it in windrows. This year, Joe was to drive it to bale the hay once it was dry enough.
Charlie, the youngest having just turned nine, was put in the pick-up with a book to sit on to drive slowly while the other boys piled the bales of hay onto the wagon. He didn’t have to worry about the gas because the old truck would idle fast enough to move through the field, but the brake was another thing. He did have to stop in before driving into the creek. It was quite comical to watch him jump off the book to hit the brake without being able to see where he was.
Matt, Tim, Jake, Frank, and Russ all loaded the trailer along with JR and Joe. Then JR would drive it to the hill behind the barn loft to unload it. All eight boys could unload it lickety-split when they wanted to. If one threw hay on another to where they all got to wrestling around or playing, it took much longer.
They didn’t know about the sun damage so there was no sunscreen. As the day became hotter with each passing hour, they shed shirts. By the end of the day, they were as brown as biscuits, that was everyone except Matt whose skin was fair enough that he was beet red and had to take a bath in buttermilk before having Grandma’s home remedy rubbed on him. No one but Grandma knew what was in the smelliest salve one can imagine. Next morning, he was no longer red, but as pale as ever.
That small little bottom of land grew more hay than anywhere else around. The boys were busy repeating the process every few weeks. They received $20 each at the end of hay season from Grandpa. They didn’t know they were getting it and were surprised for it was understood that you helped because you were part of the family. That was just what you did.