At the barn we did most of the unloading with horse power. The horses were hitched to a Whipple tree or double tree attached to the rope that pulled up the hay fork with its load. Dad was on the wagon to set the fork and trip it when it reached the right area. Mother was in the mow to spread each fork load as it was delivered. Ralph drove the team and I walked along to carry the double Whipple tree back. If it had dragged it would have hit the horses’ heels, making them very nervous and skittish. Dad’s horses, Jip and Ginny were a beautiful matched pair, big, powerful, and spirited. When he spoke, they moved in perfect unison, digging in to move whatever he hitched them to. They were strong and it took a strong man to handle them. I have many stories to tell of runaways.

Once, after my brother Ralph was older and doing most of the farming, the team started running out of control while he was raking hay with the dump rake. He was thrown from the seat and ended up inside the rake. He told me later he was sure he had little chance of surviving, thinking only of when his head would get caught between the spokes of the steel rake wheels as he was rolled along. Fortunately he was dumped out as the rake bounced along behind the racing horses. A neighbor working his fields nearby saw what was happening and hurried to help him. The rake was demolished. Ralph came home, battered and bruised, carrying pieces of harness, and following a subdued team. Dad’s immediate reaction was anger, scolding Ralph for what had happened. The day is very vivid in my memory. I shook with fear over what might have been and longed to intervene for my brother. In confidence he later shared with me his feelings of worthlessness and rejection. We didn’t understand at the time, but I’m sure Dad’s anger was a cover up of his inner feelings and emotions.

A more efficient way to make hay was to rake the dry hay with a side delivery rake. This machine rolled the hay into a long roll the full length of the field. Then with a hay loader hitched behind the hay and elevated it into the wagon. A drive wheel turned the pickup roller and the elevating apron. Usually Ralph and Dad were on the wagon with pitch forks spreading and packing down the hay. My job was at the front of the wagon, reins in hand, driving the team. I was petrified. I knew my hundred pounds dragging along on the end of the reins had little effect on the behavior of the horses. I’m sure they instinctively followed the row and slowed down as the load got heavy.

Next week – Harvesting Grain


Westby Times editor

Dorothy Robson is editor of the Westby Times. Contact her at 608-637-5625.

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