My Childhood Memories-Page 3
Chapter 5: Putting Up Hay
It was always hot during haying time. My father would first cut or mow the hay with his old horse, or mule drawn mower in this case. Our hay field was about 15 or 20 acres up on top the hill about a half mile from the house. We had a clay road built up the steep hill which got really muddy and hard to get up after it rained. After my father mowed the hay he would let it lay and dry in the sun, cure, as he called it for a couple days. Then we were ready to make hay.
We would get up early on haying day. My mother would fix a big breakfast of pancakes, sausage, and eggs. Then we milked the cows, separated the milk, and did the other chores. After all the chores my father would harness up the mules while My mother and I would get the pitchforks ready, and soak a gallon jug full of water wrapped in a gunny sack in the spring so it would stay cold for us to drink in the field. Then my father would hitch the mules to the wagon. My father usually harnessed the mules, and I don't remember much about the various harness parts.
Our hayframe wagon was special built by my father for hauling loose hay. It was built with 2 big wide boards on each side to haul a big load of hay. It had iron wheels and really rode rough when it was empty. It had what was called a standard, a wooden form about 6 foot high, which was used to brace the hay in the front of the wagon. The standard was laid down when the wagon was empty, but raised when we went to load hay on the wagon. My parents and I would ride in the wagon up to the hay field. My father drove the team of mules by the use of lines running up along the harness to the bits of the mules.
My mother and I would sit on the wide boards on the side of the wagon. My father placed a board across the wagon bed so he could sit on it and drive the mules. First I would have to open the gate to go out of the barn lot. We would go down our road about a quarter mile, then turn and go up the steep hill to the hay field. There was another gate I had to get off the wagon to open and then shut again as we entered the pasture. We had to keep the gate shut so the cows wouldn't get out. It was a very steep hill up to the hayfield, and when coming down the hill with a load of hay we had to wrap a chain around each hind wheel of wagon so the wheels wouldn't turn and overrun the mules going down the hill.
Once we got to the hayfield there was another gate to open and shut to keep the cows out of the hayfield. Once in the hayfield my father would unhitch the mules from the wagon, and hitch them up to the hayrake. The old horse drawn hayrake had a seat for my father to sit on. The hayrake had long 3 or 4 foot curved tines on the back which picked up the loose hay. There was a long lever which my father used to raise and drop the hay in windrows when the rake tines were full of hay. My father tried to make these windrows of hay form a fairly straight line across the hay field.
Then my mother and I would take our pitchforks and go along the windrows picking the hay up and placing it in little piles which we called doodles. The doodles made the hay easier to pick up with the pitchfork and load on the wagon, and they also protected the hay from rotting if it rained. This was hot work. My mother was fast at making doodles, and could make 3 or 4 doodles while I was doing one.
After my father finished the raking he would come and help us doodle. We usually tried to doodle up all the hay before we started hauling it in to the barn so that if it started raining the hay would not rot. Sometimes though my father and I would start hauling the hay into the barn while my mother finished the doodling. My father would hitch up the mules to the wagon. I would get on the wagon and my father would use the pitchfork to throw the hay up to me on the wagon. I would stomp the hay down on the wagon and help place it evenly about the haywagon. Later when I was older my father and I would take turns throwing the hay up on the wagon. My father could place a lot of loose hay on the wagon. Sometimes the load of hay would be 8 or 10 foot high.
Once the wagon was loaded my father would climb up and get on top the load of hay with me and we would head for home and the barn to unload the hay. I really enjoyed the hayride home, though I had to get off and open the gates, and at the top of the hill I had to hook the chains around the wagon wheels to keep the load of hay from over running the mules going down the steep hill. Once home and at the barn, I would climb up in the barn loft and my father would toss the hay up to me and I would place it around in the loft. There were often wasps and bumblebee nests up in the loft, and I recall getting stung by them a number of times. Blacksnakes crawled out of the hay sometimes also. We would often rest and go get a cold drink from the spring which was nearby. Haying usually lasted about week each time, depending on the size of the hay crop. If it rained a lot we had a bigger crop of hay. If the weather was dry our hay crop was less.
We had a chicken house with wooden boxes filled with straw used as nests for the hens. My mother always had a large flock of White Rock laying hens. We ate some of them at times and the rest laid eggs for us. We usually had more eggs than we could eat so we sold the rest at the grocery store. We packed the eggs in large egg carton boxes which held about 12 dozen eggs each. In the springtime my mother usually raised some little chickens. When a hen would set she would put some eggs under her, and in about 3 weeks the eggs would hatch. She often let the hen raise the little chickens. I always enjoyed watching the little chickens following the setting hen around the yard and barnlot. We didn't fence our chickens in, but let them run freely about the place.
The chickens often ate feed with the hogs and with cows and mules over in the barnlot. They were all over the place and in the yard too. We also raised geese. My father usually killed a goose for Thanksgiving, and sold the rest to people who stopped by and wanted one for their Thanksgiving Day. The geese ran freely all over the place too. The old ganders used to chase me when I was little. They would hiss just like a snake and put their head down and come right after me. Sometime they would nip me on the leg with their beaks. They could leave a pretty painful welt too. They sure were noisey also. When someone came near their flock of maybe 10 or 12 they would start honking really loud. My father said they made good watchdogs. Nobody could come near the house, but that the geese would start honking.
My father didn't like store bought bread, and he always wanted biscuits at every meal except breakfast. We always had pancakes for breakfast. My mother often made chicken and dumplings. That was my favorite, and my fathers too. She also made wonderful blackberry pie, and other pies too. During blackberry season my parents and I would take our pails and go pick berries in the wild blackberry patch on the hill above our house. Mom made a lot of jelly and also canned a lot to make pies with over the winter. I seemed to always get infested with chiggers in the blackberry patch. Chiggers are little mites that get around the ankles and legs and itch like crazy. You can't see them, but boy do they itch, and the more you scratch the worse they itch and the bigger the welts get.
Sometimes I would have to go get the cows if they didn't come in from the pasture for milking in the evening. If they were nearby on the hill above the house they would come in if we called them. They wouldn't seem to come sometimes when dad or I called, but they always came when mom called them. In the spring when the cows had little calves was a worrisome time, because they sometimes had problems giving birth. Sometimes a cow would go off into the farthest part of the woods to give birth, and if she didn't come in a day or two we would have to go search for her to see if she was alright. Sometimes a cow would have a breech birth, and be unable to give birth to the calf and die out in the woods before we would find her.
The sows sometime had problems also giving birth to the little pigs, and we had to help them. If it was cold sometimes we would bring the little pigs that were just born in the house to get them warm and keep them from freezing to death. Sometimes a sow would have too many pigs to feed properly and we would take the little runt, as my father called it, and feed it milk in a saucer for a while until it was strong enough to go back to the sow.
We were always busy throughout the year when we found the time cutting firewood to have to burn over the winter. We stacked the wood by the house. We sawed the wood with an old crosscut saw. It was about 6 foot long with handles on each end. If each person pulled it just right it worked fine, but if you pulled it wrong it would pinch in the wood. My father used to say I was leaning on the saw and not pulling it properly. He would say I can't pull you and the saw both. We used an axe and sledge hammer and wedges to split the blocks of wood into smaller pieces so we could get it in the wood stove. It took a lot of wood to last all winter, and we often ran out wood before spring. Then my father would hook the mules up to a sled if snow was on, and we would go into the woods to cut more firewood and haul it home on the sled.
Fieldon, Illinois Grocery Stores
I remember when I was a boy back in 1940's and 1950's there was a grocery store in Fieldon, IL owned by Bob Martin, and another grocery store right across the street owned by Ed Motter. I recall my parents saying that Paul Gilleland owned the grocery store in the 1930's where Bob Martin later owned. That was before I was born.
My parents told me stories about how difficult economic times were back in the 1930's during the Depression years. My parents said they used to cut firewood in the wintertime and sometimes haul the wood in a horse drawn wagon from their farm a few miles south of Fieldon to the grocery store in Fieldon ran by Paul Gilleland, and Mr. Gilleland would give them groceries in exchange for the wood. They said they also somtimes brought in eggs and poultry to the store in exchange for groceries.