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Tales of a hay hauler: One

Brad Nelson for Progressive Forage Published on 01 December 2020

For most of the years I spent seeing the Northwest through the windshield of a hay truck, that hay was loaded one bale at a time via a hay elevator. And usually unloaded the same way.

The last few years, we used the “Doodle Bug,” a machine I built using a 3-ton truck chassis, a farm tractor-style loader with a hay fork that would lift as many as 12 bales at a time. I added rear-facing controls so one could sit in the regular driver’s seat and drive down the road – and then sit facing the rear to see what one was doing while loading or unloading hay.

Loading or unloading, either way I needed a helper. Most of the time one of my brothers filled that position, but there were times I had to find other helpers, and that was an iffy deal at best. Without that one helper, I was stranded.

Desperate, I once called the county probation department to see if perhaps they would have someone fresh out of the pokey who needed work. They referred me to a fellow they all called “Cheyenne” after Clint Walker’s character in the television series of the same name. He was into bodybuilding and had quite an impressive physique; so much so that he refused to listen when I instructed him of the “easy” way to get a bale of hay from the stack onto the elevator. In about half-an-hour, he’d done about 10 minutes worth of work and was so tired he could hardly stand up. Then he paid attention as I showed him how to do his job with a tenth of the effort he had been using.

That one person was critical to my livelihood. I once took Cheyenne with me into Oregon to load hay. On the way home, he told me that by the terms of his probation he wasn’t supposed to leave Idaho. Now that it’s 40 years later, I think we’re safe letting that cat out of the bag.

I once oversaw an operation that took four or five people to run, depending on the configuration of the end product. There was usually a bonus paid based on production. One member of the crew who didn’t care about his job would cost the whole crew the bonus. The best way to replace a member of the crew when someone left was to have the remaining guys bring me someone they knew who would work with the crew. That worked 95% of the time. When I hired someone, I found it worked out about 30% of the time.

Then it was some time spent to train this one new crew member how to safely and efficiently do his job.

Individual attention to each member of a crew will result, in my experience, in better performance than to only address and train and correct the crew as a body.

Same as teaching a class in school – the goal is for every one of the students to understand the concepts taught in the classroom that day. Consider yourself as one of the students in a class. Being of normal intelligence and having the needed prerequisites to be in that class, you should be able to understand the concepts as they are taught.

A thousand things can disrupt that theory. Perhaps it’s a critically ill family member; perhaps it’s the cute girl or guy who winked at you as you entered the class. But if something is taught that, for whatever reason, “bleeps” right over your head, then you, as the one who did not understand the day’s concepts, are at a loss. Hopefully, you’ll be a bright enough boy or girl to raise a hand and ask for the last thought to be repeated. A wise instructor will welcome a request for a clarification.

When you have opportunity to travel with one of your children or employees, it’s a golden opportunity to get better acquainted with that one. That one is different from siblings or from other employees. That is a time to speak little and listen with both ears and better understand that one. It will be a “the boss paid attention to me” moment as well as an “a-ha” moment for you as you understand more of what makes this one individual “tick” and, by that insight, will be better able to help him or her do a better job. Or understand the fears and dreams of a child.

As you read this, most will be considering how to undo the weight gain from Thanksgiving and looking forward to Christmas with either delighted expectations or some gloom of the hassle to make everyone happy.

It is my firm belief that the individual for whom we celebrate Christmas sees us not as a group but as individuals. And He knows us by name and understands perfectly what we are challenged with. And with that understanding, I challenge you to see those around you, family members, friends, business associates and employees, not as groups but as individuals. A child or an employee will thrive better feeling that he or she is seen as an individual person you care for than if they feel they are only part of a nameless group.  end mark


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