We’re ‘putting up hay” in the late 140 and early 1950s on the Scheckel farm near Seneca in the middle of Crawford County, Wisconsin. The six long reciprocating arms brought the hay up from the ground and it tumbled off the top of the hay loader onto the wagon.
Putting up hay with a team of horses was quiet affair, no motors or engines. Horses don’t make much noise. Putting up hay loose, not baled, one could hear songbirds, notice hawks soaring overhead, searching for mice, crows cawing in the distance woods. Putting up hay loose was a chance to admire the patchwork of fields, woods, and neighboring farmsteads.
The sickle mower was the loudest piece of machinery in the whole operation, and that was only because of the rhythmic click, click, click of the sickle bar moving to and fro. The side rake was quiet, just the swish, swish, swish of the big reel turned and twanging noise of the tines occasionally striking the ground. The hay loader emitted a bunch of low volume noises. All those machine parts, gears, drive chains. But for the most part, haying was quiet, idyllic, slow paced, steady, even picturesque.
That is the view I have of haying as I look back at it now. That was not my view at the time. In the 1940’ and 1950’s, haying was back breaking, dirty, dusty, and sweaty toil. Occasionally, a snake would come up the hay loader and onto the wagon. Oh, that was great excitement. The Scheckel boys did not like snakes. We took every opportunity to kill them. Typically, they were garter snakes and black snakes or what we called bull snakes. Those snakes were quite harmless, and we were told they ate a lot of field mice. But I always considered snakes to be one of God’s mistakes