Thursday, September 19, 2019
The Shrewd King 9.4: Still cutting hay...
Day ten of hay season dawned crystal clear.
Denny was impatient. It was time to get hay in the barn. The old farmers used to tell him that hay only need cure in the sun for two or three days. Some of this hay had been on the ground nine days.
Denny harnessed up a team of horses to pull the old hay baler that somebody had found in one of the deserted barns. Even though he fancied himself a horseman, it takes more than ownership of a horse to make a person a horseman. Denny was too ham-handed and oblivious of body-language to ever be a good animal handler.
Both Vernon and Wesley doubted that the hay was dry enough to bale but they knew better than to question their father. Wesley kept cutting hay. Vernon’s crew walked with the baler and pushed the hay into windrows for the baler to scoop up and bale.
Denny and the crew made one full trip up the length of the field and was on his way back before he noticed that the knots weren’t holding. The bales of hay were popping open even just sitting on the ground. Denny cursed Vernon for not noticing.
It took twenty minutes to flag down Wesley. Wesley had not brought a full tool kit with him and had to run back to the shop to get one. It was two hours before Wesley had the knot mechanism figured out and had smoothed out coarse, pitted surfaces, greased sliding surfaces and sharpened knives. Then it took fifteen minutes of running hay to twiddle with the actual tension settings.
Denny fury grew as Wesley sorted out the baler's multiple problems. No grass was being cut. No hay was being baled. Sixty workers were just standing around “with their fingers up their ass.”
By mid-morning Denny was running the baler and Wesley was cutting grass. Vernon’s crew stood in the shade. Wesley had determined that the baler worked better when moving faster than a human can walk. That was too fast for the crew to stay ahead of the baler.
Denny still fumed because the horses were trampling hay. He was angry because he had people he was paying to work just standing around and because it was taking longer to “spoing” off a bale, spoing being the sound of the spring kicking the finished bale out of the back of the baler.
Denny was on the verge of sending Vernon’s crew back to the corn field when Wesley sunk the tractor in yet another mud hole.
Once, when Denny was at the far end of the field, Vernon walked over to one of the tightly packed bales and tried to pick it up. A very well packed bale of adequately dried hay usually weighs thirty or forty pounds and no more than six of those pounds are water-weight. The bale Vernon tried to lift weight over sixty and a bit more than a third of the weight was water weight. Vernon noted in passing that the massive bale was not held aloft by the stubble. The foot long stems were squashed flat and the bottom of the bale was in firm contact with the supersaturated ground.
The next time Denny came back around to their end of the field he yelled at them to start fluffing the grass that had been cut several days earlier, grass that he would not get around to baling for several days.
Under the brutal, early-July sun, Vernon’s crew moved like robots. Somehow, the gray-eyed girl managed to always be close to Vernon.