Michael Rustad Memories

The Ages of Farm Life: 1950s and 1960s

 

A farming community like Humboldt was harmonized with thecycles of the

planting and harvest seasons. Even the Humboldt-St. VincentSchool had to

accommodate the harvest season and it was considered anexcused absence to

help your family bring in the harvest. Due to my Mother'sintervention, my

brother and I were never taken out of school to assistwith the harvest. My

parents were unified in their belief that school was moreimportant than the

harvest for us. However, we were given that luxury becauseour chief means

of subsistence was my father's job as Postmaster. After1961, when he was

appointed Humboldt Postmaster, farming supplemented thefamily income.

 

I hated haying season more than any other activity. Wefarmed only

two quarters and my Mother surmised that my brother andI would never be

farmers. She always told me that I should broaden my horizonsand not

consider being a farmer. From a very early age, I wastold that I should

study hard so that I could attend law school like my UncleJim Carrigan. I

was given the task of milking the cows and caring for allof the farm

animals, but rarely rode a tractor. I was a full participantin the haying

season. We grew timothy clover but supplemented the haysupply with

roadside cuttings.

 

My Grandfather generally ran the mower which was attachedto our

little orange Allis-Chalmers tractor. After the hay wascut, it was raked

and permitted to dry. We had a primitive hay rake whichwas attached to the

back of the tractor. Tony or I would ride on the hay rakeseat and trip the

rake when it was full. This was a judgment call and weneeded to make a

decision not to trip the rake too early or when the rakewas too full. I

frequently worked with Harris Easton and was quite goodat tripping the

hayrake. This was a favorite activity riding on the backof the rake. After

the hay was permitted to dry, we had the difficult taskof gathering it and

pitchforking it into the hay rack which was pulled by atractor. Because the

hay was very dry, it was a hellish experience for someonewith allergies or

asthma. My grandfather generally drove the tractor pullingthe hayrack. My

brother Tony generally was at the top of the rack and Ithrew the roadside

grasses up on the rack. We would sometimes change positionswhen I grew

tired. When the rack was filled to over-flowing we wouldthen have the

uneviable task of forking it up in the loft. It was frequentlyvery hot and

stuffy in the hayloft and I remember the sensation of thedust and hay seeds

on my skin. I suffered from difficulties breathing bythe time each rack was

ready in the hay loft. The hay in the hayloft was forkeddown to the cows

and sheep in the winter months when it was difficult tofork through the

crusty snow encasing the hay stacks.

 

Haystacking was the principal means we had for collectingthe timothy

clover and domestically grown hays. We had a very primitivehaying

operation. I drove the 1935 Ford truck which needed tobe hand-cranked to

start. The front window could not be rolled up which ensuredthat all of the

haying dust would descend into the cab. The truck wasextremely difficult to

change gears because at least one of the gears was stripped. I remember that

it was a real challenge to drive and shift especially amidsta cloud of

haying dust. We had a very ancient hay stacker which workedby attaching a

cable to the truck. When the cable was distended the stackertripped the hay

and gradually we would build a stack. Stacking was a skilledoperation. A

well formed stack was a source of pride and really a necessity. The

haystacks all had to be moved next to the barn in the Fall. A poorly formed

stack would not be able to be moved. I do not ever remembera season when

our hay supply ran out. If the hay crop was dismal, wewould supplement our

supply by doing more roadside haying. If the pasturegrasses were too thin,

we would herd our cows alongside the roadside. This wasquite a challenge

especially for the the yearlings and heifers which hadmore energy than our

milk cows.

 

Our herd was composed primarily of guernseys and jerseys. We had

several varieties of sheep but my favorite breed was theblack-faced Suffolk

breed. I once told the athletic director at Suffolk University(law school)

where I teach that we needed a Suffolk sheep as a mascot. I did not offer to

do the haying.

 

at we needed a Suffolk sheep as a mascot. I did not offer to

do the haying.