Butch Has An Exciting Roll In The Hay!
By John ‘Butch’ Dale
Now that I have your attention — no, no, no, it’s not what you think!
When I was 7 years old, I tagged along with Dad one afternoon to my Uncle Ab’s farm, where he and his two oldest boys, Dick and Donnie, were baling hay. They let me ride on the hay wagon located behind the baler as my two cousins stacked the bales.
When fully loaded, the wagon had eight layers of hay bales, which was much too high, and they placed me on top, perched on a smaller half-bale. That wagon swayed back and forth as Dick pulled it to the barn with Grandpa Dale’s little Massey Ferguson tractor. And when he turned too sharp up and around an incline to the barn — WHOA! — the entire wagon of hay tipped over and I went flying through the air like Superman. My cousins found me under the pile, safe and sound, still clinging to that small bale, my eyes as big as silver dollars. Whew, what an exciting afternoon!
Most farmers in those days put up hay and straw in the summer. Very few do that today. When I was a teenager in the early ‘60s, I was called many times to help local farmers with their baling. It was hot, sweaty and itchy work, but the pay was great … most farmers paid me $1 an hour, although a few old-timers only paid 50 cents. Of course, you must remember that in those days candy bars, Topps baseball cards and Cokes were a nickel, and ice cream cones and Choc-ola just a dime. I thought I was rich! The best part of baling hay for someone, though, if I were lucky, were the great meals prepared by the farmer’s wife, a regular extravaganza of food galore!
Dad put up hay and straw each summer in our cow barn. When my brother and I climbed the vertical ladder from the barn aisle up to the haymow, we were in another world. The hayloft contained hundreds of bales of hay and straw, and the most fun activity was building tunnels and secret hideouts. Gary and I, along with our friends, spent countless hours constructing these, which were sometimes three levels deep, and we used flashlights to find our way when they were completed. We had scratches and we itched from mites, but no problem, it was lots of fun!
A hay rope hung from an old pulley near the roof, and by looping one end and then climbing a tall stack of hay, we could swing 30-40 feet back and forth through the air before dropping down on a pile of loose straw — junior Tarzans! On one occasion, when I dropped from the rope, I missed the pile of straw and landed on a board with a nail sticking out of it. Not a great feeling to have a nail puncture my shoe and go halfway through my foot! Yes, another tetanus shot required.
There was an open window on the south side of the hayloft in which I could pretend I was a soldier, as my Dad was during WWII, and shoot imaginary Germans with my Daisy Red Rider BB gun. And I also knew how to make “Indian darts” from corncobs by inserting three feathers in one end and a nail in the other end, throwing these out to strike an unsuspecting chicken below. And no, thank God, I never hit my mark!
The barns, along with the house where I grew up, are long gone. Nothing is left at that location on County Road 400 North but a field of corn. But when I drive down that road, I recall all the fun times I had as a youth. And my favorite memory of that old barn, you might ask, was sitting up in the haymow on a cloudy fall afternoon, reading a book, looking out the window at the beautiful countryside as a gentle rain fell on the tin roof. I had no worries, and I was at peace with the world.
John “Butch” Dale retired as a teacher after 15 years and then became a deputy sheriff for 12 years. He was elected Montgomery County Sheriff in 1994 and served for three years until his father-in-law died and he took over the farm. He has also been the Darlington Library Director since 1990, where he has served for the past 33 years. Dale is a well-known artist and author of local history.