The big three bay, bank barn held several thousand bales. The hay wagon pushed into the center bay. Getting the bales into the side bays from the center bay required use of ropes and pulleys. Dad was usually the one who pushed the four prongs, called “forks”, into eight bales. A rope ran from the forks to a combination pulley on a track running the length of the barn at its peak. The other end of the rope from the forks was attached to a tractor supplying the power to pull the bales up to the track and then to one bay or the other.
I was stacking the bales in a nearly full bay. So, while waiting for the next load of bales, I sat on the ten-inch beam that was about 15 feet or so above the hay mow floor. As the load of bales neared the top of the barn there was a crack and I felt something hit my head. God was with me in several ways at that moment. First, when I was hit, I did not fall forward fifteen feet onto the mow floor where there were a number of things dangerous to fall on. Second, the place where the bolt from the fork assembly hit me—the middle of the top of my head—was less threatening than, say, my eye. At least the bolt didn’t ruin my good looks.
The fall back onto the bales I remember, but I do not remember climbing down the ladder or walking the hundred or so yards up the hill to the house. I do remember that as Dad and Mom cut away the hair as the blood flowed from the cut, they discussed whether to take me the fourteen miles to the doctor. (I don’t know if there were ERs in those days or not–this would have been about 1957.) As I remember the discussion Dad thought that since I had only a small cut (as you can see from the scar depending on how I part my hair), a trip to the doctor wasn’t necessary. Then, too, there was hay to be made. Neighbors or maybe a hired man were helping with the haying. Mom was worried about my head. At least since Dad had his way I had an excuse for whatever trouble I got into later—it was due to the hit to my head.
Funny thing is, I do not remember the accident’s aftermath: Was I embarrassed about having a strange haircut? Did I have a lot of pain? How long did I get to read instead of needing to go back to helping with hay making and doing chores? The outcome apparently was good: no infection or other problems.
Dad was frugal. No doctor’s bills and haymaking continued.
Dad was kind to his children. Once he sent me with our old Case tractor (maybe a DC4) and chain saw to clear out a fence row a mile or so by road from the buildings. As I remember this tractor, the tires were nearly as high as the driver’s shoulders and seemed higher than the hood of the tractor. Some of you know that when a tree grows up in a fencerow, the tree often grows around the fence wire. The wise thing to do is to start the cut above the wire so that you don’t cut into the wire. Chain saws around 1955 were heavy and I wasn’t full grown. So I used the manure scoop on the tractor to lift me high enough to notch the approximately twenty-inch-diameter tree.
After notching the tree, I went around to the other side of the tree where the ground was higher to drop the tree. Just as the cut was finished, I realized the tree was falling toward the tractor. I hadn’t moved it!
I stood there imagining I could run around the tree, start the tractor and move it, when smack, the tree hit the tractor. What damage do you think there was? Surprising little to the tractor. Only the muffler and the battery were damaged. On that model, the battery sat just in front of the steering wheel. What happened was the tree was wish-bone shaped with branches that curved around just right to rest on the high wheels of the tractor. This protected the tractor’s vital parts.
The greater damage may have done to my sense of well-being. My fears expanded rapidly as I walked the three-quarters of a mile across the pasture and field to the barn to get Dad to help get the tree off the tractor. I do not remember how we got the tree off the tractor, just that dad did not make a big fuss about the cost of the damage or get mad at me for my mistake. He was merciful.
Working on Sunday
Dad was careful not to work on Sunday. Of course, he took care of the animals on the farm. That was different. Some farmers thought haymaking was in the same category and would “make” hay on Sunday; but Dad wouldn’t. But in the Spring, though, sometimes he would work on Sunday.
We lived off the main road on a gravel road that just past our house and barn became a dirt road that got bad just past our buildings. With no trees and low ditches the road across the creek and up the hill stayed dry. Once over the hill there were trees close on both sides of the road and several low spots that stayed wet. So “Sunday drivers” would zip down the gravel road past our house, over the bridge and up the hill and out of sight on the mud road. A little later our Sunday dinner or Dad’s nap would be interrupted by a knock at the door and a stranger would inquire about help getting a car out of the mud.
Dad would agree to have dinner interrupted or to give up the nap to help the “Sunday Driver.” But, giving that help required getting out our tractor. We had a John Deere A 1937 with a flywheel crank start. (If you have heard the “putt-putt” John Deere, you have heard one of these.) For those who do not know about late 1930s John Deere, the flywheel was a large thick wheel (3” x 14 or 16”) attached to the left side of the tractor. To start the tractor, one grabbed the wheel with both hands and tried to spin the wheel counter clockwise to get the engine to fire. On rare occasion in the summertime it might start on the first spin. Most times it took many attempts and interspersed with adjustments of the choke. Incidentally, being able to start the JD-A was a test of manhood for a young teen. But, starting the “A” was not a favorite Sunday activity. I was 11-14 when these rescues happened (before the road was graveled) and I don’t think I went with Dad on any of the half-mile trips.
Dad may have commented about the emotional and mental qualities of the Sunday Drivers when he returned, but I don’t recall that. I do remember he refused pay for the rescues. And, I remember that Dad was compassionate enough to work on Sunday even to help foolish “Sunday Drivers”.