Welcome back to my crazy memories of my crazy rural upbringing.
Make hay while the sun shines.
I really hated that expression as a kid, because for me, it was literal. It might be one of the reasons I love the rain. Okay, so I’m a tiny bit lazy, but I mean, who likes to get hot and sticky and covered in itchy chaff on a nice day? Not me, that’s who.
In July and August, if the sun shone, it was pretty much a guarantee we’d be pulling on our jeans and T’s and heading out to the fields to bail up a massive field of hay somewhere and put it in the barn for the cows’ winter dinner. The picture below is how we used to do it, having to stack it on the wagon by hand.
I can’t tell you how many times I rode on the top of a load like that, not been paying attention, and been clothes-lined by a tree branch and knocked down onto the ground. Usually on top of the stubble left behind after the hay was cut.
Good thing kids bounce!
There are so many stories I could share, and I have a few entertaining ones planned. Today I’ll center on one involving my paternal grandma. First, you have to know a little about her, rest her hardworking soul.
She was a hardcore farmer’s wife. She lived and breathed hard work and never complained, because that’s just the way it was. At least, unless you weren’t working hard enough in her eyes, and then, holy hell, look out! Nope, my grandma minced no words, nor spared your feelings if she decided you needed to be told something. If not working in her giant garden, she’d be whipping up a freshly made batch of her famous jam-jam cookies or making us a jug of homemade lemonade to bring out to those of us who were putting hay into her barn.
This particular day, she had done just that. She appeared out of her house holding the glass pitcher with the blue flowers on it, jingling with ice cubes and lemon slices just as we’d finished offloading a backbreaking, heavy load. A neighbor boy had come to help us, and had brought along a friend he had over for the day. I would have been around twelve, putting the other two boys at around ten.
This boy, let’s call him James because I can’t, for the life of me, remember his name, found a dead snake in one of the hay bales. He nudged me as the thing dangled from his fingers, its innards half hanging out, and said, “Watch. I’m going to scare the jeepers out of your grandma.”
Snickering, I said, “Pfft. Go ahead. I dare you.”
So, snake held behind his back, James strode up to my grandma and chatted her up, acting all casual. Meanwhile, the neighbor boy and I watched and waited. I knew she’d do something, I just had no idea what, and it tickled me all kinds of pink watching the events unfold.
My grandma, being the woman she was, offers the kid a drink. After all, he did work hard, right? When she bent to pick up the lemonade off of the walkway where she’d set it and the cups, James stuck the snake in her face.
She didn’t even flinch. Standing up straight again, she stared down at him for a moment. I don’t think he knew what to do, so he jerked the dead thing at her again.
Well, if she didn’t grab his collar in one fist and the snake with the other. Then, to my dropped-jaw astonishment, she shoved that snake down his shirt and said, “There you go. How do you like that?”
I’d never seen a boy move so fast in my life. Screaming, he stripped off his shirt and went running down the lane way, probably looking for his mommy. Ha! Grandma cackled loud and long, and I laughed right along with her. Geez. I bet he developed a snake phobia and probably breaks out in a sweat every time he sees one, even now.
That’s what you get for messing with a lifelong farm girl!
Next week I’ll tell you about my hard lesson on how NOT to fix a piece of machinery in the field.