Stephanie Pearce: Haying season — summertime splendor
Sitting in the driver seat of a tractor, warm wind blowing while the seat is bouncing up and down; that’s a great place for a young person in the middle of summer. I was 9 or 10 the first time I was allowed to run the tractor by myself, raking behind my dad, who was cutting hay in a tractor in front of me.
I didn’t have a big tractor with a cab and air conditioning. No, I had no cab and it definitely wasn’t the newest tractor to choose from. It was a 1956 Massey Ferguson 35. I didn’t really even care that it was smaller or had no amenities. I was so excited to get to run this by myself that it really didn’t matter. I felt important; I was contributing.
It is amazing what a young person can learn driving in circles and doing a job that matters. I remember learning where to keep my wheels so that my rows were even. I remember learning how to use the brakes to turn and to pick up the rake and put it down so the rows were just right. I learned how to operate an important piece of equipment. I was exposed to responsibility because not only could a wrong move ruin the feed for the cows for the winter, but it could ruin machinery or even cause a loss of life.
I remember taking in the beauty around me for hours. The grass was as high as me in the tractor, and when it was cut it smelled so good. I remember the particles of dust in the light of the sun making this romantic look in the field. I even picked out places in the fields where I could imagine getting married. I loved being outside all day singing songs as I made my rounds because I had no radio, so I made my own music.
It wasn’t all rosy though. I also remember years there were grasshoppers that seemed as big as dogs jumping on me as I tried to run the tractor. They had nasty legs that stuck to me in the eeriest of ways. I’m sure I provided much entertainment to onlookers as I tried to flick them off, sometimes standing up with arms flailing until they released their hold of me. There were also the mammoth rattlesnakes that were scurrying through the hay or thrashing around because they were injured with the tines of the swather that was ahead of me.
Those memories are some I will never forget. I felt satisfied at the end of the day. I had worked hard, and it was something I couldn’t wait to do, not that I had to do. Parents, along with older siblings, seemed to make work look like fun so that we couldn’t wait to participate. It was work, but it was also time spent with family and it kept me out of trouble. I was blessed to be with my dad all summer working while I was young. I was learning responsibility while being with those that love me most.
Nothing compares to handing those memories down. I remember the day I looked out the window of the old ranch house to see my 9-year-old son trailing behind my dad on that same old 1956 Massey Ferguson 35. What a great place for a young person to be on a summer day.
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