Hay still smells good, but Daddy’s done with cows

For some strange reason, it smelled like a haymow on the second floor of my building yesterday. It’s not the kind of space that should smell like hay. Maybe somebody was just wearing an extra dose of Barnyard by Calvin Klein. Whatever the reason, it sent my mind reeling back to the 1970s.

The images in my memory were not ones of attempting to lug hay bales as big as myself, or of scratching up my arms on the rough edges of cut hay. They weren’t of getting blisters in the joints of my destined-for-office-work fingers from the friction of baler twine. They weren’t of trying to balance on a moving wagon while keeping out of the way of bigger kids who could actually heft the bales up onto the stack.

My memories were of building forts with bales in the mow; of playing hide and seek and tunneling between the stacks; of the hay smelling fun, not being the odor of sweat and hard work.

haymow diplomacy

Ah, those good old days! Making forts, hiding out, and negotiating international treaties in the wonderland of the haymow. It was good to be a kid. (Image: Ridson Tillery – US Farm Security Administration)

My wife once asked me if I regretted my children not having that kind of upbringing. I said no.

They’ll have much more opportunity in their suburban childhoods than I had in my rural one. They will have schools with more resources, and a wider variety of people with which to interact. They will miss out on some particular brands of fun, but they’ll miss much of that fun merely because it’s not the ‘70s anymore. Even in the country, it’s 2015, with 2015 rules and regulations.

A farm life would be good to teach them the value of hard work. It might teach them that you can smell bad and still walk tall, as long as you smell bad for a good reason, and only when necessary. It could teach them humility, as it did me when my job was to hold cows’ tails. Cows’ tails can get to be very – let’s call it grimy – and having to hold them tight can make a young dandy have to swallow a good portion of his pride.

All the cows are doin it

Even with a friend along to help talk to the cow into it, I still don’t want to do any more milking. (Image: John Vachon – US Farm Security Administration)

There can be many character benefits to a farm life, but I don’t want it for my boys. The selfish truth of the matter is I don’t want it for me, because if they lived on a farm, I’d have to live there too, and I don’t want to. I don’t want to start work at 4 a.m. and knock off after dark. I don’t want to carry blisters on my still perfect-office-worker fingers all through haying season. I don’t want to coerce milk from an animal who doesn’t feel like giving it up, or even one who does. I don’t want my livelihood held hostage by the weather or a far-away commodities market. And I never want to have to grab hold of another cow’s stinky, sticky, wet tail again.

I’ve decided the second floor of my building smelled more like a silo. Silos were always dark and damp inside. I never had any fun in a silo.


22 comments on “Hay still smells good, but Daddy’s done with cows

  1. Amanda Olivier says:

    I found a $5.00 bill in a silo the one and only time I have ever been in a silo. I’ve always wondered if I should go back to a silo. find more money. or other treasures. or not.

  2. Gibber says:

    I had a farmer who wanted to marry me once. Part of the reason I didn’t want to marry him is that I never wanted to be a farmers wife. Now having said that, I ended up marrying a former farmer. Ha but at least he wasn’t when I married him. I only say that because I know the life of a farmer is a hard one and not for me.

  3. A.PROMPTreply says:

    Absolutely agree…..I wouldn’t want to live on a farm either….nice place to visit, but you don’t need to live there!

  4. Jaye says:

    Hay! I live on a ranch and love the hard work, but you’re right, it makes for long days and it seems the chores are never done. I spent 15 hours on Thursday spreading sawdust, feeding horses (definitely not as stinky as cows and have much more personality, but don’t try milking one), watering the critters, etc. I love it, but know it’s not for everyone. A couple of weeks ago, we did that “hay thing” and brought in 450 bales from the field and stacked it in the barn and of course it was the hottest day of the year! I love this life, stupid looking farmer’s tan and all. At the end of the day, I feel like I accomplished something, but the next day, I’ve got to do it all over again. Dang, maybe this isn’t so much fun… 🙂 but I DO love the smell of fresh cut hay.

    • I feel like I’ve accomplished something when I get the kids in bed by 9 p.m. I do love the smell of hay and the memories, but the work doesn’t agree with me. I know; I argued with it through my entire childhood.

  5. I am very happy to live across the street from our vet clinic out here in a rural area. We have enough land for a decent size garden. We can go across the street and visit the pigs, horses, dogs, cats and occasional chickens without having to deal with any of these at our house except for our outside cat. I think there are some hay bales over there across the street somewhere. That is plenty of farm for me.

  6. pieterk515 says:

    I’m not sure if anyone ever had fun in a silo.

  7. Ellen Hawley says:

    I’m a city girl (or I was–it’s been one hell of a long time since I was a girl), now living in rural Britain. But not farming. Keeping up with a garden’s enough trouble to keep me going. But Barnyard by Calvin Klein? Inspired.

    • Every photo I have ever seen of rural Britain is dripping with peacefulness and beauty. If this is where you live, you are one lucky city girl. If your garden is a success, that’s just icing on the cake.

  8. markbialczak says:

    The first rush of that memory of the good times growing up in our dairy country must have been pleasant, Scott. But, yes, tough life, family farming, without a doubt. And so many of them have gone under, for economic and cultural reasons. 😦

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