Sifting through the good ol’ days

In the past, I have written several columns on the clutter that seems to take up residence in my home. How it gets here, I am not certain. Little gremlins, perhaps, or maybe I need to be better at getting rid of stuff, instead of throwing it on a pile.

There are the occasional times when my letting it accumulate is a good thing, and such was recently the case. I had stopped to visit a cousin in Shawano one day, and we got to talking about Grandpa and Grandma. She is older than I am, so she remembers more of those days than I do.

When I got home, I kept thinking about our reminiscing, and those thoughts drew me to my parent’s picture box. As a child, I loved when we got that old, large, cardboard box out. Lovingly, Ma would take out each picture, telling us who was pictured. When the time came to clean out my mother’s house, I had asked if I could have that old box with the priceless pictures.

I don’t look in it that often, but that night, I was drawn to that box, so I came in the office and went through the box, piece by piece. I looked at each picture. Some had names written on them and others I knew, but I also found some newsletters from the nursing home my mother had resided at for a few years with memories of the residents.

If I had read them before, I don’t remember, but I sure read them now, with a feeling of longing, as my mother, who was born in 1900, shared accounts of growing up on a farm and also farming with my father.

Mother recalled a story about when she was a young girl. She was working in the hayfield with the rest of the family. The hay had been cut with horses pulling a sickle a couple days earlier.

“My grandfather was raking hay with Jerry and Queen (horses),” Ma explained. “Jerry was a dark horse and considered lazy, and Queen was a light brown and she was fast. Sometimes the team would go sideways because Queen would be pulling harder than Jerry. One time one of the reins slipped away and grandfather was holding just one. The horses went round and round running in a circle, my father had to stop them.”

In those days, when the hay was raked and fully dry, the hay loader, also pulled by horses, would be used to get the hay on the wagon and then brought to the barn. Using either slings or a fork, the hay would be pulled up into the mow to store for winter. The hay would pack down quite solid and was hard to get apart and get down the chute to feed the cows. My mother said that they had a hay saw to cut the packed hay apart so it could be handled easier.

As a child, I can remember asking about a strange contraption we had at the farm and was told it was a hay loader and some comment, “Be glad we don’t need it anymore.” There were also some metal hook-like things hanging from the rafters of the old barn. I recollect being warned not to try to swing from them, as they were dangerous. I seem to recall that some kids tried to mess with them, but I don’t remember anyone getting hurt. Perhaps, that is why I have a fear of heights.

Getting glimpses of the past are so important to me. It is good to know dates and the like, but I am most interested in the experiences of my past relatives — it helps to bring them alive to me. Ma wasn’t much to tell stories of her past, but I was glad to learn about her haying days. I sure am glad I kept that newsletter and will keep digging for more stories of the good ol’ days.