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Hay season means hard work, lifelong memories

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 It’s hay season here in Kentucky. It doesn’t matter that it’s 90 degrees outside and humid as can be, there are farmers still out cutting, raking and bailing hay to store for feeding livestock in the cold weather months when grass doesn’t grow. 

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From the time I was little to this very day, summer has always been hay season. I remember days when dad would leave in the morning and be gone all day cutting, raking or bailing hay. It would be dark before he would get back home with his pocket T-shirt soaking wet from sweating, his jeans and hands covered in black grease and a tired look in his eye. 

Often times, dad would need supplies delivered and off we would go around the road and down some rough path to the back of someone’s farm to deliver twine, food or parts. For years, Dad custom cut, raked and bailed hay for many people and on a lot of farms down in the western end of the county and neighboring counties. He’s the most hard-working man I know. Thankfully, today, Dad has given up the custom hay business and focuses mainly on harvesting hay for personal use. This allows him more time with family and more time to spoil grandbabies. 

It doesn’t matter where we go, Dad can usually point out a farm covered in brush and trees along the way and tell me all about how he used to cut it for hay back in the day. He talks about how steep the ground was, who used to own it and the quality of hay it made. It’s pretty neat to hear all the stories of who lived where and what places used to look like. 

Additionally, hay season was a family ordeal for us. My dad, grandparents, aunts, uncles and us kids would all pitch in to help when square bales were ready to be loaded. There were two big ridges that Mamps always cut for square bales. It always seemed like the hottest day of the year when they decided to cut it too. A lot of times, we would be racing against the clock trying to get the bales loaded in in the barn before rain came and got the hay wet. Everyone would pitch in to help, friends, neighbors and sometimes passersby. Most of the time we loaded the hay at dusk when it was cooler outside and the moon shined bright.

Usually Nana and the smaller but able kids were in charge of driving the tractors or trucks. They had to be careful not to go to fast or two slow, both of which usually resulted in getting hollered at.

Then the kids would be on the ground to load the hay while the adults were on the wagon stacking bales as they were loaded. Once we were all done and the wagons were backed in the barn, we would all head to Nana and Mamp’s house to eat a big and hot meal. Sometimes it was fried chicken and the fixings and sometimes it was meatloaf or BBQ chicken. No matter what it was it was good and the company was even better. 

Today, Mamps is no longer with us and the help has grown up and moved around the road and started families of their own. We mainly roll bale hay to feed to our cows in the winter, instead or square bailing. We help Dad cut, rake and bale hay in exchange for hay bales since we don’t own hay equipment of our own.

 As a mom in the hayfield, I can’t do what I used to. 

I can still deliver food and drinks, parts and twine. And when the time comes to move hay from farm to farm, I usually load the girls up in the truck and help haul hay six rolls at a time back and forth. It’s still just as much a family effort today as it was 10 years ago. 

 

Emily Milam is a resident of Lawrenceburg.