Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



Saturday, September 9, 2017

Hay! ing

Yeah. That year.
The hay is being put up here in northern Alberta.
Great, fragrant swaths of it are lying in the field. Great round or square bales of it awaiting transportation to the stack.
Monster machines cutting or binding or hauling.
How different from the days of my Berg uncles in the 50’s.
One winter in the late 1950’s there was a large accumulation of snow. That spring, with the abnormally heavy runoff, the Berry Creek was running higher than normal. About six feet higher.
Now normally, this wouldn’t be a problem.
Except it was haying time.
And my uncles (consisting of eldest--Glen, second--Bern and youngest--Leif and a hired man--Zoltan) had to cross that creek six times a day to get to and from the home place.
Not having a boat or barge, they were left with themselves. Uncle Glen had broken a leg earlier, and with it in a cast, was the only one consigned to riding a horse, who did the swimming for him.
The rest had to rely on their individual ability. For Bern, no problem. For Leif and Zoltan—well, let’s just say that looking at the 40 feet or so of lazily-moving water appeared to those two as a raging torrent of a half-mile or so.
Now, none of them wanted to swim in their clothes, understandable because then they’d have to work in said wet clothes. Their solution? Strip off naked, stuff everything into a burlap sack. Have Bern throw the sack across the river.
And swim across in the buff.
It worked.
Most of the time.
Then . . . THAT day . . .
Bern was swinging the bag around, trying to get up momentum to toss it the forty feet to dry safety.
When he slipped.
The clothes, shoes and everything landed in the creek.
Zoltan was nearest.
Remember when I mentioned his swimming ability? Or lack thereof.
Well, that would matter here.
He decided to alter his course through the water to grab the bag.
And disappeared.
In a churning mass of arms and legs, he managed to resurface, but the currant pushed him along and entangled him in a tree.
In the meantime, the bag of clothes was floating merrily down the creek and was starting to sink.
Picture it.
Three naked men, one seated on a horse and wearing a cast, standing on the creek bank, staring in horror. A fourth man, also naked, caught in a tree in the creek.
A bag of much-needed clothing disappearing rapidly from both view and accessibility.
I just wanted you to catch a glimpse.
Before I told you that Bern, he of the better swimming ability dove into the murky water and managed to save both the man and the clothes.
And they were able to continue their haying, noticeably damp.
But alive.
The cleanest haying crew ever in the history.
And the luckiest.

8 comments:

  1. Man, those farmers were tough! Every time you write about past times in farming, it strikes me what weaklings most of us are today :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think I could do it. Certainly now!

      Delete
  2. And posties have a reputation for getting their work done whatever the weather. Farmers make them look like wimps...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Neither hail, nor sleet nor snow, nor raging torrent . . .

      Delete
  3. It was one for the memory book and the story is still being told...to an appreciative audience.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I've always been terrified of rushing water like that. I would have sat there until it went down...just ask my husband haha!

    ReplyDelete

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