Monday, April 13, 2009
During the summer, there is one major task that must be accomplished on our farm. We have to bale hay and straw. This may not sound like too big of a deal, but it is actually a lot of hard work. First of all, baling is usually done in the middle of the summer, which means it is extremely hot. Lifting heavy bales while being outside in 90 degree weather is no small task.
In order to get all of our baling done in about a day and a half, we have to have a lot of people to help us out. There has to be at least two people on the wagon loading while one person drives the tractor and baler. We also have to have one person to transport full wagons to the barns and empty wagons back to the field. It usually takes about 6 more people to unload the wagons.
I'm sure you can imagine that it can be rather difficult to round up ten people willing to suffer in the hot weather for a day and half. My dad would pay the workers, but let's face it, most people would rather be swimming doing something else to keep cool. I found out rather quickly that when my dad couldn't find enough people to help out, I would always "volunteer" to help.
I believe I was about 14 the first time I "volunteered" for this task. Since I'm a girl, my strength wasn't really valued among the guys. Basically what I'm saying is I was going to get stuck doing some type of driving. Hauling the wagons back and forth would not be a bad job at all because I would have air-conditioning and radio; however, since I didn't have my drivers license, this small bit of hope was quickly taken away. I knew I was going to get stuck driving the tractor.
I was really nervous about this task because I had never driven a tractor before. My sister went out with me the first day to try to give me a few pointers. As she was telling me all sorts of things, I started to panic. There was no way I would ever be able to remember all these things. A few of the most important rules are: always make right turns when pulling a baler and a wagon, let off the clutch slowly or else you will knock everyone off the wagon, don't get distracted and miss some straw, and watch out for holes.
This is a lot of information to take in. I learned fairly quickly that actually driving the tractor is the easy part, but remembering all the little details is the hard part. Controlling the clutch is a hard skill to master because it usually sticks. This means it's almost impossible for someone that has small feel and that only weighs 115 pounds to be able to transition smoothly. The people on the wagon really don't like it when they almost get knocked off every time you start to go or come to a stop.
My first day driving the baler alone was quite an experience. It was going pretty well. I hadn’t knocked anyone off the wagon or gotten the baler plugged up. Unfortunately my luck eventually ran out.
Through the middle of our field there is a waterway. In the summer it’s dried out and it isn’t very steep, so we just have to drive across it while we’re baling. There is one part of the waterway that can be a little tricky to get to. It just so happened that when it came time to go through that part, I was pulling a wagon that was almost completely full of straw. I was so worried about making sure the wagon made it through the waterway ok that I wasn’t paying much attention to what was up ahead of me. What I didn’t see was a giant hole!
I didn’t see it until the front of the tractor was about five inches from it. By that point there was nothing else I could do. I just had to go through it. I was absolutely terrified. My cousin and brother on the wagon started telling me to stop and I did. I felt so bad I almost started crying. My cousin came up to the tractor very calm and said he was going to try to get us out. Luckily he was able to get us out of the hole and none of the equipment was damaged.
I feel very fortunate that my cousin was on the wagon that day. If it had just been my brother, I would have gotten majorly yelled at. My cousin had very good humor about it, and now looking back, even I can laugh about it.