Missouri Woman Recalls Hay Baling on the Family Farm

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By Capper's Staff | Feb 9, 2012

I have been thinking of the old-time methods used on our family farm. Having been a farmer’s wife for six decades, I have seen several changes, but what especially comes to mind is our hay baling in the early 1940s.

We were still using horses some, along with a John Deere tractor. We had a stationary baler that was attached to the tractor with a long wide belt.

First the tractor was used for mowing the hay. Then the hay was raked with horses. When we started the actual baling-I say “we” because I had a part in it too-a team of horses was hooked to a bull rake, one at each side. The bull rake had several wooden teeth that ran under the hay, and was then brought up beside the baler.

The baler took at least four or five people to operate: one to pitch the hay in, one to “block” and stick the wire through from one side, one to tie the wire on the other side, one to move the bales out of the way and one to run the bull rake. Of course one of these people had to keep an eye on the tractor too, as it was idling several yards away from the work and sometimes would overheat.

The system required pitching the hay into the rack, where a large fork affair would plunge the hay down. More hay was put in. When the bale became a certain size, it was my job to shout “block” and everything stopped. I would put a homemade wooden square block, the size of the small part of the bale, in to divide the bales. I then stuck two baling wires through, and the fellow on the other side tied the wires securely, then the whole process would start again. We only had three or four of the blocks, so I had to retrieve each for use later. Sometimes the plunger would come down on the block and smash it to pieces. It took very delicate timing to know exactly when to halt the process. It allowed no time for daydreaming.

It was very dangerous for the fellow pitching the hay in, as the fork with big teeth respected neither people nor things. We were lucky and avoided any catastrophes.

This job took place in the hottest part of summer. It was a hot, dirty job but I enjoyed having such an important responsibility. The men all bragged on me because I did the job competently.

Della Whitesell
EI Dorado Springs, Missouri

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.

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