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Tales of a Hay Hauler: A “Real” hay hauler

Brad Nelson Published on 07 August 2009

Leo made one of many interesting comments as we were riding together some years back. “If that truck you are following,” he started, “is taking the curves in the road about five miles an hour slower than the curves are posted for, then there is a good chance that the driver used to haul hay.”

This made sense. More stacks of hay have bales of uneven sizes and weights than those that are uniform. This makes for the occasional load of hay that is light on the bottom and heavy on the top; and also to be narrow on the bottom and wide on the top.

If either load went through a forty-mile-per-hour curve at forty-five or fifty, the odds are that the driver and all the help he could muster would be pulling the load out of the ditch and trying to get it back on the truck.

Bear in mind as we go along with this tale that there is a big difference between a hay hauler and a truck driver hauling hay. Some say that the two are not even of the same species. A hay hauler will never hang up his hay hooks, even if he gets into another line of work.

They are just too handy. They are just the thing for jerking loose stubborn 5th wheel latches, and they work great for loading logs cut to firewood length.

Just sink a hay hook into each end of the log and pick it up and toss it on the load without bending all the way over. My brother Lyle had a number of fellows on a wood-gathering trip tell him that he was cheating by using his hay hooks to load the wood.

A couple of weekends ago the grandsons wanted to roast marshmallows over the campfire. I did not have a proper willow or other stick to use. But I had my old hay hooks on the back of the pick-up. I hooked a marshmallow on the point of one, and held it to the fire. (My old hooks are 18 inches long. Shorter would not have worked as well and longer would have been better.)

By the third marshmallow the metal at the tip of the hay hook was nice and hot. By the time the outside of the marshmallow was toasty brown the center was hot and gooey also.

A hay hauler never gets stuck. “Are you stuck?” Is the usual question, with the usual answer being, “No. But if I don’t get something to hook up and help me pull through this spot I might get stuck.”

One of my almost-stuck experiences involved slippery, gooey mud. The ranch crew went for a tow rig to help me through the bad spot. The tow rig was an International Harvester crawler tractor about the size of a D-8 Caterpillar.

The crew had it started and running and hooked up to my truck quicker than I could get the truck started and the air built up to release my brakes.

About the time we reached dry, solid ground the brakes released and the wheels on the truck and trailer started turning. The tractor driver said he thought I was going to help a little bit. I told him I had planned to but he took off before I could get the brakes released.

Another “almost stuck” involved a snowdrift on a dirt road 40 miles from nowhere. I was only moving at about twenty miles per hour rounding a bend when the snowdrift caught the steering axle of the truck and pulled me off into the bar ditch. Everything was still shiny-side-up and the hay was still loaded on the truck.

It took unhooking the trailer (my combination was a full truck pulling a full trailer) and driving the truck some distance to get it back on the traveled portion of the roadway. Then I backed up near the trailer and hooked a chain from the pintle hitch on the truck to the eye of the tongue of the dolly on the trailer.

After a couple of pulls I got the trailer aimed back towards the road, hooked back up, and went on my merry way. If you get out by yourself, you were not stuck. If you have to get help to get out, you were almost stuck. If you get stuck you are not a “real” hay hauler.

One of the local hay haulers had made a self-propelled hay loading “squeeze” out of a single-axle truck. It worked just as well as the Roadrunner™ units, especially since it cost a fraction of what a fancy factory-built unit would cost.

On the way home in the dark on a winter night, the owner of the squeeze, driving the now-unloaded hay truck, found a slick spot in the road.

By the time he got the truck and trailers he was driving back in a straight line, he called “Tino” on the C.B. radio to warn him of the icy spot. Came the reply, “Too late, Boss. I find the ice and I no stay on the road.

I need you to come help me.” He got stopped and found that his squeeze was not only not on the road, it had rolled and was now standing in the air with the arms of the squeeze impaled into dirt and gravel beside the road. “Tino, what did it sound like when the squeeze rolled over?” “I don’t know, Boss. When it start to roll, I shut my eyes!”

A couple of hay haulers flew from Washington State to Tennessee to drive home a used truck one of them had purchased. At the Spokane, Washington airport, one of them was wearing a black T-shirt with a picture on the front of the good guys from the gunfight at the O.K Corral, and lettered, “Department of Homeland Security.”

He walked up to the baggage check counter and stated to the agent, “I have a pistol in this bag I need to check with my luggage.” The agent at the counter acted like he had done this many times before, and took care of it. The hay hauler heard someone behind him remark that someone that big did not need a pistol – he could go bear hunting with a willow switch.

Dan turned around and said that his dad used to do that all the time until a game warden took the willow switch away. Not fair to the bears. About an hour into the flight Dan’s traveling companion quit stuttering. He was concerned that a firearm at the airport would get them both jailed.

Later in the trip the question came up about buying permits to drive the new used truck through several states to get it home. After some discussion the consensus was that, “We are hay haulers. We don’t need no stinkin’ permits.” And they did not.

The only scale that pulled them in was outside of Boise, Idaho. The officer asked if they had just purchased the truck. With the affirmative answer, he asked to see the paperwork.

Then he said, “Okay. You are good to go.” And being real hay haulers, they realized that this was not the time to stand around asking foolish questions, but the time to get in the truck and go. Which they did.  FG

Brad Nelson