I have a reprieve today from the not-so-fun task of adding hay to the barn. Starting in late October or early November, there's not enough nutrition left in the pastures for the animals to graze, so we begin to throw hay. I am very lucky to have plenty of acerage for summer grazing. I am also very lucky to have a wonderful next-door-neighbor with a large haying operation. Earlier this month, Eric delivered a wagon of about 150 bales. Another 50 were due this weekend, but we've postponed it due to the rain. I unloaded and stacked the first load in the barn myself, taking a full morning to do it. It is a rewarding task, but you do end up with scratches and chaff down your shirt. There's also the surprise of the occasional live snake that crawls out of a bale.
I used to help Eric's father hay about 5 to 10 days for many summers and enjoyed the work. Fields and pastures in this part of the state are anything but level so standing on a hay wagon, grabbing and stacking bales from the baler while the tractor was running gave me great balance work and preparation for ski season. Throwing bales into the Bowie's lower barn was wonderfully plyometric.
But mostly, I enjoyed Eric's father, Frank. Frank past away in May of 2012 and I miss him terribly. He was kind, smart, and funny and one of the best flirts in the world! We made, I dare say, one of the oddest of hay crews. Me, a middle-aged, suburban-raised lawyer and Frank, born in 1923. I think his wife, Lucille, loved to see him giving me instructions on how to fix things that went awry with the baler. Although Frank was spry and active until the summer before he past away, getting on and off his 1940 Allis-Chalmers diesel with agility, he relied upon my fingers and eyesight to fasten screws and take apart the baler when things broke or got tangled. As many farmers have to be, Frank knew how to fix anything.
During the winters, Frank and Lucille and Bill and I would sometimes go to Friendly's or a local restaurant for dinner when the milking was done. And Frank would often come here on Sundays to visit, bringing potatoes or some other offering. I think he thought my farming efforts were borderline silly, and used to say, "You farmer, you. How are things going? I love to hear those rosters crowing from across the field."
When we first moved here in 1990, I was working for a judge and Frank was still selling raw milk from his milk room. He stopped milking cows about 5 or so years before he passed away. Frank's father never joined the milk co-op, so Frank sold milk on the honor system in glass bottles with the cream on top out of his milk room. I remember going to meet him in April of 1990, and introducing myself. He said, "I heard that two lawyers were moving to the Copp Farm. Where are you going to work?" I told him that I was going to be clerking for the Chief Justice. Frank said, "Ah, Vincent McKusick. He's a fine man." I was blown away. This was no average farmer. Turns out the Frank had served in the legislature himself and was a pillar of town politics.
So, here's to you, Frank! I can never lift a bale of hay without thinking fondly of you!