Baling hay is a marathon race that most farmers consider a sprint. I
constantly push when I bale alfalfa; I count how many bales I’ve made, figure the average amount of bales per row, calculate
in my mind long it takes to make a single bale then multiply it by the number of bales I’ve left to make. It’s
frustrating because every time I have to stop it throws off my calculations. I’m always disappointed and the same questions
rings through my head from the time I start a field until the last roll, “are we there yet?”
We just finished baling Conservation Reserve Program acres this past
Saturday. I say “we” because two of us baled with two separate units although we were never in the field together.
The dry, slippery Crp hay refused to roll in my baler but my brother, Steve’s, baler did fine. Steve’s baler was
driven by his father in-law, Richard Anderson, from Viking, Minnesota. Richard farmed in his early years, next managed an
elevator in Lake Bronson, Minnesota then later operated a café with his now-departed wife Jean. Richard has a lot of good
sense but I think his best personality trait is that which I need the most-patience.
I found Richard at the end of the field last Friday. He had just wrapped
a bale, then swiftly shut the tractor down and had his coffee thermos upended and one hand in his lunch pale before I could
lean against the tire. Richard and I spoke for a bit, I showed a little wisdom and asked his opinion about farming, life and
baling that darn CRP hay. It was nice, you see a long life has provided Richard enough knowledge to form an opinion on anything
but he’s open to other’s ideas as well. Richard’s consistent, even pace creates a patience that allows him
to accept the breakdowns both in the cab of a tractor and in life. Richard also enjoys what he does-he remembers what I forget.
He remembers it’s a privilege in farming that you “get” to bale hay, not that you “have” to
bale hay. If farming didn’t demand I perform farm work, I’d probably pay someone to let me perform farm work.
Richard has lived enough lives to know farm work and know what it’s like to be without farm work. He savors the moment
while I’m still out there focused on the horizon, counting bales, timing how long it takes to make a bale and how long
it will take to finish.