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Tales of a Hay Hauler: Is there a reason?

Brad Nelson for Progressive Forage Published on 01 April 2021

A fellow I’ve known for what seems like forever had a real dislike for horses, for what seemed like good reason. About the time he was getting serious about high school, a horse fell on him and mangled both bones of a lower leg. He said it seemed like he spent all but a couple of weeks of high school in a cast or on crutches.

When he had some follow-up surgery done, I think to remove some of the hardware they’d implanted to hold bones in place while they healed, a handful of us visited him. We wanted to bring him something and settled on a sack of candy. As we neared the hospital, one of the group wondered aloud if our friend was allowed to have candy.

We didn’t want to have a confrontation over a sack of candy, so I slipped the candy sack inside the top of one of my Wellington boots. When we found our friend, we asked if he was allowed to have some candy. He said he’d never asked. We told him we didn’t either as I hiked up my pant leg and produced the bag of sweets. We kept the visit low-volume, as we didn’t want to be asked to leave for sounding like a riot in progress and certainly not while sharing with the patient what might be contraband. When the visit ended, the candy had all disappeared. I think we took the wrappers with us too. On the way to the car, one of the group mused, “I wonder if that’s how the term ‘bootlegging’ came about?”

Sometime after the hospital incident, we were in health class. One of the coaches taught boys’ health every other day as the class alternated with the P.E. class. On a warm spring day, the coach asked the class if they wanted to take a test or if they’d rather be useful outside.

Red cinders had been delivered and spread over the running track that circled the football field. Scattered among the cinders were some chunks of volcanic cinder that were too large and needed to be picked up. We commandeered some galvanized garbage cans which had a sturdy handle on each side. With these in place around the track, we commenced throwing cinders at each other and, on occasion, getting some in the garbage cans. Among the group was Jerry Kreuger – he was very soft-spoken and seemed he never needed to raise his voice. He was also about a head taller and half again the weight of his peers.

When our outdoor health class concluded, guys would get two to a garbage can and carry them to the designated spot. My friend had been out of a cast and off crutches for a few weeks but was still limping quite noticeably. He ended up picking up one side of a garbage can full of cinders that Jerry had the other side of. Jerry took off at a normal gait, and after two strides my friend called out, “Whoa! Hold up! Slow it down, we got a bum wagon over on this side!”

He barely managed to keep his footing as Jerry turned and acted surprised, then slowed his pace.

I had always carried my wallet in a back pocket. That changed while I was attending college. Inside it were my drivers license, Social Security card, student ID and a paltry amount of cash. At least my checkbook was stowed safely elsewhere. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get a check cashed in another state without a drivers license or student ID card?

I found it two days later. I was working at a dairy farm part time while going to college; the job included room and board. I had been scraping the cow corrals with a tractor and blade. It had been a very wet couple of weeks that spring, and we were running out of places to drag the manure off to until the farm ground got solid enough to spread it on. It was rather the consistency of thick stew. That’s where I found it. It had floated to the top. I retrieved it and, after removing everything of value, discarded it. Soaking important papers in Old Spice aftershave only changed the aroma, but it was better than before.

That is the reason that ever since I carry my wallet in a front pants’ pocket.

And then there was the young wife who set out some meat to thaw and placed a dish drainer upside-down over it. Her mother was visiting and asked why in the world she did that.

“But Mom, that’s how you always did it!”

“Marla, you don’t have a cat.” end mark