Haying In Hampton, A Family Affair

My cousin, Jim, has provided me with a wealth of stories of his growing up years in Hampton.  These stories have appeared in the Family Newsletter and in this blog.  Here is another one.

“Sometimes I would help my cousin, Arthur (Pearl), with his farm work, free – just as a friend.  One time I was riding on the old single side sickle bar mowing machine while he pulled it with his old tractor made from an old car.  For a bush stalk too big to cut, pulling the lever would raise the bar to pass over the stalk.  I failed to see a thick one.  It jammed the blades.  Without the blades moving, the force goes somewhere else which, in that case, made the seat flip forward like a catapult.  I was sent flying forward, through the air, landing on Arthur’s back.  Once we learned that each other was OK, we had a good laugh.”

Arthur’s daughter, Alma, wrote to me well over a year ago, and added memories of her own about her Dad’s tractor.

“I do remember that tractor which my dad drove.  It was a cut down car that was converted into a tractor.  I thought that I had a photo of it, but I could not find it.  I remember my dad driving the tractor and my mom on the back apparatus either cutting or raking the hay.  I believe that my mom also drove the tractor so my dad could do the cutting in the back.  I also remember when we got a machine that would rake up the hay and place it in the wagon so we did not have to pitchfork it in.  As a kid we got to ride on the top of the wagon full of hay as he brought it over to the barn.  Actually all of the neighborhood kids would show up when my dad was haying and we all would ride on top of the wagon.  He had this big claw that would be lowered from the barn and it would pick up the whole wagon full of hay to put it into the barn.”

Some of my memories:

I spent many an idyllic vacation in Hampton and was very close to my cousin, Joyce Pearl.  She lived on the farm near the foot of Hammond Hill Rd.  She and I had the barn, the pastures, in fact the whole of the valley below as our playground.  Growing up on a farm, Joyce had responsibilities that I, as a city child, only had a vague idea about.  One summer day when I was visiting in Hampton, I gained a new perspective of what was expected of a farmer’s child.  I arrived at the farm as Joyce was helping her Dad, so I stood by watching her, waiting till she could be free to play.  To my amazement and with total admiration, I watched her clamber up onto the big tractor and she drove it!!!!  I am guessing we were around 10 years old.  The hay wagon, piled high with hay, was parked next to the barn, directly under the hayloft opening on the top floor of that old structure.  Joyce’s job was to get the hay up to that opening.  A rope tied to the front of the tractor was strung up and over a pulley above the opening.  The other end hung down to the ground with a large claw  or tongs at the end.  This claw bit into the mound of hay; Joyce carefully reversed the gears and backed the tractor up and the mound of hay slowly rose to the top of the barn directly in front of the opening where their handyman, Bert, swung it into the loft.  Watching her working that big, old tractor, was an eye-opener for me in many ways,  and certainly gave me an appreciation that life on the farm was not all play!

….Dot Vander Meulen

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