By Tomorrow They’ll Be Gone

June 24, 2014 § 10 Comments



I walked up from Melvin’s an hour or so ago, tired enough that I actually paused to consider my route: Should I got short and steep or long and low? And if the former, along the cow path or straight against the pitch, leaning into the hill as the blood hammered in my veins and the flow of sweat that had just stopped started again, one brined drop at a time.

The cow path seemed a good compromise. Besides, if one can follow a cow path home is not one obliged to do so? Seems to me that choosing otherwise might be considered provocation by whatever gods watch over rusticated footworn fools like myself, so I tripped one heavy boot in front of the other and let the cows lead me home. I don’t need no more trouble. I know when to be good.

I was tired because of haying; over the previous two days, we’d put up nearly 2000 square bales, never mind 34 round bales that needed gathering and transporting and rolling into the high drive of Melvin’s barn. In all, it was maybe 125,000 pounds of hay, give or take a few ounces. And most of it stacked twice, first on the wagon behind the baler, then into the barn nine and ten bales high, so high you have to design ladders into the stack so you can reach the uppermost rows. Not all by ourselves – don’t get me wrong, we’re not heroes, just idiots – but still and all, it’s heavy work, haying. There’s no way around it. Many hands make it less heavy, but it is never light and we are always as ready for it to be over as we were for it to begin. Isn’t that strange? How you can so look forward to something and then so look forward to its end? Sometimes I think what we were looking forward to all along was the end itself and with it the knowing we have another year of feed under tin. We have bought ourselves another year of butter and beef and shit and honesty.

Why do I say honesty? Because putting up 2000 square bales is honest work. Because Melvin putting off his own chores to help us put the last few acres into rounds because the forecast changed and we lost of day of sun is honest. Because us helping Melvin with his bales the next morning because he did chores late the night before because he was helping us with our bales is honest. Because making butter is honest. Because milking on a 20 below morning in January in an unheated pole barn while your cow munches contentedly on the hay you put up six months prior is honest. Most things in this world, you can make ‘em dishonest if you try just a little. These things, you cannot. Or maybe I’m just not smart enough to figure out how.

By the time I’d followed the cow path to where it dumps into Melvin’s big hayfield and by the time I’d walked halfway across that hayfield to where I could see the roof of our house, my sweat had flowed and stopped yet again. Tired. So damn tired. But I could smell that uniquely sweet scent of fresh-baled hay wafting up from our barn. I could look behind me and just see the dark line of the cow path beat into the dirt. I was tired enough that for a second, I questioned if that was where I’d really come from. Looking backwards it seemed illogical, like so many things do. Maybe I should turn back to find proof of my passing. There’d be boot prints in the dust.

But why? That would be stupid. Anyway, by tomorrow they’ll be gone.

§ 10 Responses to By Tomorrow They’ll Be Gone

  • Alison Archer says:

    Another good post!


  • Derek says:

    Very enjoyable and thought provoking post today, thank you. Now get some rest.

  • You are so right. We only do rounds now, but the guys were pushing untilmidnight last night to get the hay wrapped before the storm today while us girls did night chores, made dinner and prepared for customer deliveries of eggs, meat and cheese today. Many hands do make the work lighter and it does not get more honest than this. Thanks for the reminder today of why I do this for my life.

  • rhondajean says:

    That tiredness that hard work brings is the best kind. When it’s rewarded with deep sleep it completes a natural human cycle that has been carried on for centuries. The work I do now is not as physical as yours but I still remember that deeply satisfying feeling of drifting off to sleep after hard work. I hope you feel refreshed today.

  • ncfarmchick says:

    I never feel cleaner than after washing up from haying. Maybe you have to get really, really dirty and sweaty to know what clean feels like. Maybe it also means something to expend energy feeding the animals who will one day provide you with more energy to do the same thing over and over and over again. Honest work, indeed. Thanks for another great post!

  • One of your best posts. Honest!

  • Emily says:

    I’m amazed and impressed that you look forward to it! I confess that I dread haying season every year. We put up about 400 round bales a year. On a good year, there are only a couple of all-nighters, when you finish up with the wrapper only to find that it’s 4 am and the cows are waiting to be milked again.
    The best thing that happened to me this haying season was taking my boys for a walk on the evening that my husband mowed the first hay. My 4-year old son exclaimed in sheer delight, “Mama, haying season is FINALLY here!” He and his younger brother proceeded to do some hilarious celebratory dances, complete with clapping and hooting, every time the mower passed us by.
    I think that’s what got me through the first cut :)

    • Ben Hewitt says:

      400 round bales is a lot! And we didn’t pull any all-nighters, that’s for sure. Just think: After that, second cut will be a piece o’ cake!

  • Katrina says:

    Wxcellent writing! Thought provoking as always.
    Your comment about being so excited to start something and then being so excited for it to be done reminded me of knitting a sweater; so excited to cast on and so thrilled when the final end is woven in.

    And somehow your words brought back to me the smell of the grass baking in the +100 degree summer heat of central California. Almost like bread. Thank you!

    The haying here is in starts and spurts as the farmers are trying to time cutting and bailing with the storms that hit some areas hard, or miss by miles. Grateful for the rain that will finally make the grass grow, mixed with wishing for a dry spell so work can get accomplished.

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