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Tales of a hay hauler: ‘What manner of men are these?’

Brad Nelson for Progressive Forage Published on 31 March 2022

There’s a story around about a fellow with an ill-mannered son who hadn’t seen much of the world. The day the boy mouthed off about the garb worn by some bikers and got his dad bounced around was the day the dad went shopping.

The father procured a very thick dictionary, a Bible, some Shakespeare and some Charles Dickens. The boy was grounded to his room with the books for more than a couple of weeks. When he convinced his father he had both a better handle on the “King’s” English and some common sense, he was once more allowed out and about with his father … (to conclude later).


“I was country when country wasn’t cool” was a rather popular country tune some time back. My old trucking buddy claimed the writer of that tune must have been following him around for the past 30 years. Plaid flannel shirts, whatever brand of blue jeans were handy and usually pull-on boots had been how he’d dressed for decades.

How a person chooses to dress is really that person’s own business. There’s probably a good reason why he/she is dressing that way. I wore striped bib overalls for a few years. I’d developed a hernia in the usual place, lower right side of my abdomen and right under my belt. The belt was intolerable, even with suspenders, so bib overalls it was.

While so attired, I was once asked if I had been working for the railroad. I turned my head in his direction, stared at him for a few seconds and said, “I have no idea why you’d ever think that,” and walked away.

The first time I took the love of my life to church, she complained because I was wearing dress shoes and not the cowboy boots I’d worn on all our previous dates. I believe that was the last time I wore dress shoes. I may still own a pair, but I’d be hard pressed to find them. The grandkids think it’s because my artificial knees won’t bend enough for me to tie my shoes.

There’s usually a reason why a person dresses as they do. From personal preference to medical (kind of difficult to tie shoelaces with only one hand), cultural (this is how everybody hereabouts dresses), work- or safety-related (pant legs not tucked inside boot tops to keep hay dust and welder sparks off of your stocking feet) to social (imitate the “cool” crowd).

A brimmed hat may be chosen for style or due to recurring skin cancer spots on a person’s ears from years of loading hay trucks wearing a baseball cap.

Be it culture or style, it still doesn’t take much observing to tell a “dime store cowboy” from someone who runs cattle for a living.

Back to the boy grounded until he acquired some “culture.”

His dad had business in the far West, and since the lad had been more mellow and thoughtful before running his mouth, he was invited to accompany his father. They flew into Albuquerque, New Mexico and then drove three hours into the desert. Finally, a very small town emerged. The father was there to engineer a new domestic water system for the town.

After parking, the father and son walked toward the building containing the hotel on the upper floors and a saloon on the ground floor. They reached the swinging doors to both the saloon and the upstairs rooms just as a handful of cowboys were tying their horses to the railing outside. These were fellows who looked, talked and walked like they’d spent a good number of years astride a horse.

The recorded voice of Johnny Cash was loudly bemoaning having fallen into a burning ring of fire, and the horses were neighing as they were tied. To be heard above the background noises, the lad spoke very loudly so his father could hear his question.

“Forsooth, Father, what manner of men are these, who wear their legs in parentheses?” end mark

Getty Images.