Summer is winding down. The sun is setting earlier and rising later every day. I was told the other day the sun has set after 8 p.m. for the last time until May 2024.
While that is a little disheartening, I am equally glad the fall temperatures should be a bit cooler than the ones we have recently endured. It has been hot!
We are still working on our second cutting, although we believe we have mowed for the last time for this hay season. If the weather holds, our final bales for the year should be in the barn before this column makes it to press.
Our equipment was still a few miles away at the last farm we finished, emerging unscathed from a mild tornado that touched down last week.
The tornado destroyed one neighboring family’s barn, tore up a couple of outbuildings, some equipment and some fence at another farm. We were blessed it passed by our equipment without any damage.
Seeing a nice window in the weather this week, we went to move our equipment Saturday morning. We needed to move one tractor, the mower, the tetter and the rake. Since there are three of us at home right now, we took the truck and a second tractor up to get everything at once.
My son led the way in our big tractor pulling the mower, followed by my daughter on our smaller tractor hooked to the tetter and me in our truck hooked to the rake. I’m sure we made quite a sight caravanning through our small town.
My son mowed for a few hours the same day. By the next day, most of it was ready to bale. Again, the three of us rode down to the field when it was ready and began to bale.
We usually stack the wagons since we haul the hay a few miles. This allows us to maximize each trip and helps ensure the hay is not going to fall out as we drive down the road.
Thankfully, my daughter asked if she could ride the first wagon. I can still stack a wagon alone, but it takes a lot more energy now than it did 15 years ago.
I gratefully accepted her offer, and instead, helped keep things cleaned up. I picked up any bales that didn’t make it into the wagon. And the couple that broke and were kicked out, I picked up and put into the next windrow.
We were nearing the end of the first wagonload when things went awry. My son cut down the hill just a bit too sharp and the wagon began to slide. He tried to steer out of it, but from my vantage point at the opposite side of the field, I could see it was picking up speed.
I covered my face, lifted up a quick, “Oh God, please be with us” prayer, and looked up again.
The wagon, baler and tractor were jackknifed in a tightly packed S-shape, but they had all come to a stop. My daughter was still upright in the wagon, and my son was starting to climb out of the tractor as well. I jumped into the truck and sped toward them.
They were both down and assessing the situation when I arrived. The baler’s PTO shaft was tight against the back wheel of the tractor. The kicker was touching the corner of the wagon. The wagon tongue was on such a bind with the baler hitch the pin looked to be on a 45-degree angle.
We decided to drop the wagon so the tractor and baler could pull themselves out — but that was easier said than done. We chocked two wagon wheels and I also backed the truck up against it to help hold it if the chocks weren’t enough.
We moved the kicker to give us room to move and then slowly moved the tractor forward and backwards a bit at a time until the pin was close to vertical again. Then we began trying to beat it out of the tongue with a hammer. The bind was still pretty bad, so it didn’t want to come out.
Our tool kit had no punches in it, so we improvised with various things — a narrow, deep-well socket and a screwdriver among them. After nearly an hour, we finally got the pin removed and my son was able to drive the tractor and baler off the hill.
Next up was the wagon. I inched the truck away from the wagon slowly to make certain the chock blocks would hold. They did, so I lined up to the tongue and we connected the wagon to the truck.
Slowly, I pulled it down off the hill, and once on flat ground again, I breathed a prayer of thanksgiving.
My children were completely fine. All our equipment was also fine, save for one small light on the back of the truck that cracked when I backed up to the wagon a tick too far.
The wagon didn’t spill a bale and we were able to haul it home and back it into the barn in time to make it to our friends’ house for dinner. Considering the story I could have been telling tonight, I can live with that outcome.