We’re ‘putting up hay” in the late 1940 and early 1950s on the Scheckel farm near Seneca in the middle of Crawford County, Wisconsin. Dad had a heavy wooden hay loader from the 1930’s. Many of our windrows of hay were up and down hills. Two horses pulling a loaded hay wagon, with 2 or 3 people aboard, and a heavy wooden hay loader behind- well, that is asking a lot from Dolly and Prince. Somewhere along the line, he bought a lighter metal New Idea hay loader. It was the one he sold at the farm auction in 1965.
What an exquisite piece of equipment! Standing about 10 feet off the ground and about five feet wide, the horses straddled the windrow of hay. The big wheels of the hay loader drove the mechanical parts. A wheel driven chain on the left side turned the rotary rake, and drove 6 rows of tines, 3 offset from the other 3, that raised the hay up a sloping chute and into the hay wagon.
It took 3 people to run this operation. Dad took the hay coming from the hay loader and forked it forward. One of us boys, Phillip, Bob, or me, built the hay load in the front area of the wagon and another boy drove the team. That was the desired job. No sweat equity here. It was like being in the wheelhouse on a Mississippi River steamboat. Sun beating down, blue sky with puffy white clouds, breeze blowing. It doesn’t get better than this!
Several times around the field to get a full load depending on whether it was first crop or second crop or third crop, how steep the fields, and how close to the barn. We boys traded off tasks. Didn’t always get the job you wanted. It was a matter of pride to build a good load. The hay wagon has boards on all four sides. Built up about 3 ft on the two sides, about 4 feet in the back, and the front was up about 3 feet, but had a 3 feet center that was raised about the other front side board. The reins of the horses could be tied to these boards.
If short-handed on help, the reins were draped over the front boards of the hake rack. The Scheckel handling the hay in the front of the wagon could both drive the horses and help with the load. The horses knew where they were going. They were smart enough to straddle the windrow of hay. The only time they needed “steering” was at the end of the row or a ninety-degree turn. I suspect they could pretty much do that also.