When Duane and his wife were back visiting in the area last summer, I visited with him while we were attending his uncle and aunt Don and Mary Coon’s 50th wedding anniversary party. He was telling me of his memories of baling for my father-in-law, Karl and my husband, Ralph. I told him I would love to have him write something down, so I could share with my children and grandchildren. He graciously did and the bonus was, he shared the great memories of Judge Hanson. Ralph baled for Judge Hanson and the some of the Hanson boys worked, too. No doubt they, too, were getting a subtle nudge on whether the brain or the brawn would rule their life’s work!!! Duane is right--the smell of freshly cut hay does invoke some pretty special memories. Thanks Duane, for sharing your memories.

Jean Borgeson

By Duane Coon

Dec. 29, 2005

Hay Baling Recollections

During my high school years (1972 to 1975), I hired out a lot to local farmers, most of that for hay baling and corn shelling. Undoubtedly, the most hay baling I ever did for one farmer was for Borgeson's and other folks they baled for. When I baled for Borgeson's, Carl always drove the tractor pulling the baler and Ralph would do many jobs, including stacking on the rack, hauling to the barn, loading the elevator, or stacking in the hay mow or shed. Borgeson's were some of the hardest workers I was ever associated with. They started early and worked late and didn't take many breaks, except for eating lunch. Carl was a man of very few words. Of all the times I loaded the rack while he pulled the baler, I rarely heard him say much of anything. He reminded me a lot of my Grandpa Neese, who worked the same way. Those guys had a work ethic that revolved around one thing, how much you could get done in a day, and if they did any talking at all it would be at the end of the day to congratulate everyone on how much we a accomplished that day. Carl never complained about the heat, or the bumps, or getting tired. I never once heard him complain about anything unless some of the machinery broke down. Then, he reverted to Swedish, for what I assume was some cussing. Ralph was lighter hearted and more outgoing than Carl. Ralph and I would visit off and on all day long. He enjoyed telling stories and having a good laugh whenever possible. Borgeson's had a lot of hilly ground down by the river, so baling on those slopes could be a real challenge for two reasons (1) you had to stack the rack just so and "lace" the bales together or the whole darn load would go sliding right off the rack when Carl headed down a slope and (2) there were always thistles growing on those slopes and those stickery plants would go right through my blue jeans like they weren't even there. On a rare occasion, one could also encounter surprises like a bull snake caught up in a hay bale. I remember stacking hay in the barns and sheds at the Borgeson home place. They had two little blond haired boys that always liked to be right in the middle of things. They would often come out to the shed and "help" me move bales. Ralph would usually do the hauling from the field and then, in this case, he would pick those bales up one by one and throw them up into the shed where I was carrying and stacking them. Throwing bales was easily the hardest work of all, because if the hay was getting baled damp, those bales could be mighty heavy and the twines would be real tight on the bale. Ralph, just like his dad, never complained about anything. We would usually be hot, covered in sweat, and coated with hay dust and pieces, but we took all that in stride. I always looked forward to the dinner bell when Jean would serve up her ham sandwiches and plenty of stuff to go with them. Sometimes, Borgeson's would bale hay for their friend Judge Hanson. The judge was quite a character. Being a Federal judge, he clearly never needed the income from farming, but he dearly loved rolling up his sleeves and doing some good old farming work. Sometimes, his younger son would work with us as well. I remember he always drove a little blue convertible sports car. I remember the Judge had a barn on his place with a very unusual mow because there wasn't any hard floor in it. Instead, it had some kind of woven wire mesh type of floor. The judge always honored me because he would refuse to bay his hay until I was available to do the stacking on the rack. Like Borgeson's, Judge Hanson had very sloping hay fields and he always claimed that I was one of the few people that could make the loads tie together well enough to stay put on the rack. The judge had known my father, who had the nickname of "Zip", so Judge Hanson often called me Zip or Zipper out of habit I guess. Judge Hanson had a club foot, which made it challenging for him to get around, especially on soft hale bales in a mow. When I stacked hay in the Judges barn mow, I remember him climbing up the elevator with his club foot and telling me that he couldn't walk around on the hay to help me stack but he would stand at the top of the elevator and throw the bales towards me as far as he could. Judge Hanson always paid me an hourly rate much higher than the going rate. That's just the way he was, he had lots of money and he was generous with it when we helped him farm. I also remember one lunch break when Judge Hanson and Ralph were asking me what I was going to do for a career when I got out of high school. I remember yet that Judge Hanson said that if I wanted to pursue a military career that he had the ability to give me an appointment to an academy. That was never a path I pursued, but I was honored all the same that he offered it. I also remember Ralph telling me how much the Judge's salary and retirement pension was and we both marveled that he loved getting out and getting dirty and sweaty in the hay mow with the rest of us. I never knew back then what all a Federal judge did, but I knew he was highly placed. That made it all the more of a surprise one day when he came out with a six pack of Budweiser and asked me, as a 16 year old kid, if I would join him in sitting under the hay rack out of the sun and having a "cold one". I guess the Judge knew that "what goes on in the hayfield stays in the hayfield" and he knew he could trust us. One thing I certainly remember is how tired I would be after baling hay all day with Borgeson's. I often came home and fell asleep on the floor. My mother had a mighty difficult time trying to wake me up enough to clean up for bedtime. This hard, back breaking work was a big part of my inspiration when it came time to get serious with high school studies and think about college and a professional career. I pursued a civil engineering degree at Iowa State and I've been engineering projects for big companies ever since, 26 years now. Even now, living in the rolling Ozark hills of Arkansas, I still have fond recollections of my younger days in the hay fields every time I smell some fresh cut hay.