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Hay Season on the Farm

Have you ever had to help out during haying season? It starts before you even leave the house because you have to decide if you want to wear long sleeves to protect your arms but risk stroking out under the 95-degree sun and high humidity, or do you want to wear a cooler short sleeve shirt and get 1,500 tiny scratches the full length of your exposed arm from the prickly hay? To the city folk, you look like you were attacked by a feral cat and lost; but to the local folk, they recognize it’s from hay season. When you’re at the hayfield, they’ll ask you to play the potentially lethal farmer’s version of dodgeball where you have to stand in the hay wagon while the tractor lofts hay bales at you with a trajectory and force that will knock your lights out and make you see stars if you aren’t fully paying attention. You pray that your peripheral vision and hearing are on point while you’re trying to stack the hay before the next bail gets shot straight at your head. Even if it misses your head and hits you square in the back, you’re going to get the wind knocked out of you as you get propelled across the wagon to the ground by the airborne bale, and then you’re going to have to learn to breathe again and scramble out of the way in two seconds before the next bale lands on you. After surviving that game, it’s time for a hazardous game of “Red Rover” where you single out a cow to try and coral her in a Red Rover style fashion of a line of people circling her and coaxing her into the barn. I’m thinking to myself she’s going to know I’m the weakest link here, she’s going to turn around and stampede me! Sure enough, I yell, “Yep, she picked me! I knew it! Here she comes! You guys got my back? She knows you guys are going to do something medical to her and she’s not happy, I see it in her eyes! What do I do?” They yell to me to stand my ground, don’t show fear! Too late! I yell back, “How about I just wait in the barn and yell words of encouragement to you guys and just show her which stall you picked out for her?” Now it’s time to milk, which tends to include two games fraught with highly likely numerous injuries….the “hot and cold” and “squish the farmer” games. Hot and cold is when you have to learn real quick where to stand next to a cow so she doesn’t get nervous and kick you into next week. I can foresee her kicking me into the next cow and so on until I’m just ping ponging my way from cow to cow the whole length of this barn. The squish game is when you’re trying to milk and she decides to use you as a mobile cushion as she leans her entire body weight of 1,800 pounds against the metal stall with you in between her and the metal, squishing the ever-loving life out you. Your whole life flashes before your eyes, trust me. I should have updated my will. This is why farmers do not have signs on their property that read “365 days since the work related last accident” like some industrial businesses do. They’d never get any summer help that way. The next day you wake up with so many aches and pains because you’ve used muscles that you didn’t know you had and then vow that next year you’ll be sure to do a triathlon work out to prepare for hay season. This is one of many reasons why farmers do not get paid enough. If corporate America had to put up with half of the hazards farmers do, our economy would collapse. They don’t play dodgeball with flying hay bales on Wall Street, or “squish the accountant” when they’re at their cubicles. To say that farming is physically and emotionally challenging is an understatement, and we all have great respect for those who choose that calling in life. Thank you to all of the farmers out there for all that you do to feed our families! You are appreciated!

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