By Marian Brennan Pratt
My dad ran a farm with the help of me and my mom when you could still make a pretty good living off a small farm. I don’t know if he ever got the kind of help, he was hoping for but at least we showed up.
You cannot put wet hay in a barn. Me and my mom don’t know why but my dad does, so we’re good with that, my mom and I are. This is the reason I learned to fly. Our equipment consisted of a little Ford tractor, a hay loader and a wagon with a high rack on the front.
The weather was either unbearably hot or raining that summer and as many times as we thought we could get that hay in the barn, the weather delivered rain instead, which made the unbearably hot part good because the windrows of hay dried fast…… but then it would rain again.
It was the first hot day in a week, the hay was dry, the sky was blue, and rain was threatening, Of course it was. So, dad and I climbed on to the wagon and mom hurried to the tractor. We were working fast but, as it turned out, taking chances. The load was getting high and since I was walking all over the load tramping it down so more hay would fit, mom yelled “We better go in” but because the storm clouds were gathering my dad said “No, let’s get the rest of the row and then pull right into the barn.” She wasn’t happy, and she was distracted, and she knew she didn’t know why you couldn’t put wet hay in a barn, but, again, she knew that he knew, so she tried to remember that as she kept on driving the tractor pulling the overloaded hulk of a wagon. Then suddenly she thought my dad had changed his mind and yelled “stop”. I didn’t HEAR stop and he didn’t SAY stop but Stop she did and off I went like a bird on the wing.
That’s why I say I learned to fly.
“I killed her. I killed her,” my mother lamented.
I remember looking up and noticing that my head was underneath the tongue of the tractor, but I had no time to contemplate that. My dad dragged me out by my feet, sat me up and started “patting” me on my back, telling my mother that I would be fine; it just knocked the air out of me. I thought “If he would just quit hitting me, I think maybe I could breathe”. We had piled the hay too high, way up past the big front rack on the wagon in an attempt to beat this rain but it had left me with nothing to catch myself when I was about to take flight, exactly what my mother feared.
After she dried her tears and was satisfied that she had not killed her only child, my dad jumped on the tractor determined to get the load into the barn. It seemed like the sky was about to explode any minute. As we were shutting the big barn doors, I heard “We might as well get ready; maybe the rain will stop”. What? I was already ready…….. ready to quit. Nevertheless, he unhooked the tractor from the wagon and tied a rope running through a pulley hanging from the ridge pole of the barn to the tractor. Two monster forks which resembled something you might find in a torture chamber were attached to the other end of this rope which was equipped with a trip wire to dump the load. So now we were just waiting for the rain to stop, or not. My parents sat side by side on a bench and waited. Waiting has never appealed to me, so I decided I would see what I could do about getting up on the top of the load. I climbed up the ladder, walked down the beam and jumped into the top of the load…. and slid off back down to the floor of the barn. Nobody saw that, so it was not a tear-filled occasion.
Wouldn’t you know, the big rain that terrorized us just spit out a couple of drops and moved on. Ratz! It looks like we’re back to work. Since I didn’t do so well jumping into the load from above, I needed a new plan. OK, here I go climbing the infamous rack. “Where were you an hour ago,” I said. No answer from the rack.
Dad’s job was to work the mow, hauling and leveling each load as it dropped so it wouldn’t end up in one big pile. My mom reclaimed her seat on the tractor and I was to be the setter of the ghoulish looking forks. The Stomper and the Setter – that’s me.
Mom drove the tractor away from the barn, lifting the load. Up, up, it climbed. I was waiting to hear “pull” which dad would yell when it was hanging right where he wanted it. This was a crucial kind of waiting, not the “sit around and do nothing” kind, this was the “better be paying attention” kind of waiting. So, I’m waiting, waiting, waiting, did I hear “pull”? I was so sure I heard “pull” but I guess not because, when I “pulled” the trip wire the forks let go and dumped the whole thing directly on top of him. I heard a lot of words come out of the mow after that and none of them sounded like “pull.”
My dad used to tell the story about working on the farm with HIS dad. It seems that the hired man couldn’t get the horses to stop and the load dumped which allowed the mechanism to shoot right out the side of the barn and hang there like a crooked-neck chicken ready for the soup pot. Apparently, things didn’t go so well in the “olden days” either.
My father announced, climbing out of the mow, that we had better quit for the day before we killed each other. The rain and the hay nearly did us in. It had been a hard day. He pushed too hard, tried to do too much, and hadn’t listened to my mom as he always does. He thinks I didn’t see him put his arm around her as we walked to the house.
If anybody is gettin’ killed today, it’s not her.
Marian Brennan Pratt held the position of Church Secretary at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in the Village of Emmett, Michigan for 24 years. She has four grown children: Barbara, Suzanne, Bernie and Steve, seven grandchildren: Daniel, Kaitlynn, Emily, Ashley, Taylor, Brennan and Benjamin, one great-grandchild: Paislee and another on-the-way. While a member of the community, she joined the ladies of the parish in a Book Club, was a member of Daughters of Isabella #452 and a past member of the Village Council. Marian lives in Port Huron now and has always been interested in Journalism which led to her joining the staff of St. Stephen’s High School newspaper, the Stephecho. She has written several articles for the Emmett News and has had a book published, entitled “Emmett Township”, part of the Images of America series by Arcadia Publishing which plays a large part in the preservation of local heritage.
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