September 20, 2013 § 10 Comments
Lynn called and offered us 8 or 9 acres of standing second cut hay, and damned if that we were gonna let such an enormously generous offer fall by the wayside. We’ve got almost enough hay put up, but almost is… well, it’s almost, and almost don’t cut it with ruminant animals. I mean, you can have enough hay to get you through, say, middle April, which is mighty close to green up ’round these parts, but if you don’t have enough to make it into May, you might’s well pawn your critters now and save yourself a passel of trouble. And all for the want of a few weeks worth of hay come spring.
Anyway. The barn is full to bursting with square bales, so we worked a deal with Melvin to put the hay into wrapped round bales that needn’t be under cover. To be sure, the plastic wrap is a bummer and all, but sometimes concessions must be made, and this was one of those times. I’ve waxed poetic about putting up square bales more than a time or two, and I’ve meant every last word of it, but tarnation them round bales are handy as all get out under the right circumstances. So this morning after chores the boys and I trundled down to Melvin’s, hooked up the clamshell to his loader, hitched onto the wagon, and went bale gathering.
I hadn’t really expected the boys to help with wrapping. They’d never run the wrapper before, and it seemed easier to simply do it myself, despite the complications of wrapping solo. First, you gotta load the bale onto the wrapper; then, you gotta move the tractor, climb out of the tractor, wrap the bale, dump the bale, set the wrapper, hop back into the tractor, stack the wrapped bale, grab an unwrapped bale, and load the bale. Then you do it all over again. But complicated as all this sounds, I figured it’d be quicker and ultimately more efficient than taking the time to show the fellas how to operate the wrapper, as well as whatever time it took to undo any mistakes that were made. In short – and it sorta pains me to admit this – I just didn’t want to be bothered.
So yeah, I’d planned on performing the gyrations necessary to load, wrap, and stack the bales alone, what with Melvin still milking, but the boys were keen to prove their worth, and so I sighed and capitulated and gave them a few moments of instruction and climbed back into the tractor, all but certain I was making a mistake that would come back to bite me sooner, rather than later.
I’m gonna stop the story telling here, because I’ve come to the place where I can make my point, and that’s really what I came here to do. As I was watching the boys wrap the bales, conferring amongst themselves every so often when things got complicated (wrapping is a fairly simple task, but it is important to line up the wrapper correctly for both loading and dumping, and to be sure the bale makes 15 full turns, and the plastic wrap, which is self-sticking, can be a real bear to work with), it occurred to me how rare it’s become that children are able and/or allowed to contribute to their family’s well being in such a visceral manner anymore. And I was thinking of a passage from the book From Boys to Men (which is by Bret Stephenson, although the passage is one he quotes from a now-defunct periodical):
We are the only civilization in history to have created a whole category of people (adolescents) for whom we have no real use. In times not long gone by, fourteen-year-olds helped on the farm. They assisted with the animals, cared for younger siblings, and helped get the crops in before the frost. If they lived in the city, they got into the shops and found jobs as apprentices, helpers, stock clerks, or custodians. They had a role in society – and they understood that hard work and responsible behavior were the keys to future success. They were in partnership with adult members.
Now, however, we have “protected” them out of jobs, and relegated young adolescents to the roles of pizza consumer and videotape junkie… Children this age need to be needed, but we have institutionalized our rebuff to their pleas to be of service.
For the next hour or so, I loaded and stacked, whilst the boys wrapped, and darned if they didn’t make but one error, which was quickly remedied (and was one less error than I’d made the first time I used the wrapper), and darned if the whole task took maybe half as long as it would have without their help.
And darned if – and I’m pretty sure I’m not mistaken, here, judging by the look of satisfaction on their faces – my sons didn’t feel needed. As I know from experience, that’s a real nice way to feel.