Bucking Bales: A Family Tradition

This past week I surprised myself. After nearly two decades, I stood on top of a trailer load of hay, stacking square bales while my brother Vince and nephew Bradley tossed them to me. My sis-in-law Lisa was behind the wheel, keeping things moving steadily along as a gentle breeze kept us cool in the June sun.

Bucking bales.
Bradley tossing another bale to me.
Picture courtesy of Lisa Harke

The surprising part for me was that, after a little coaching from Bradley, my hay stacking knowledge all came back to me like the proverbial riding a bike. And the memories of former days in the hay came back to me as well.

From my earliest days I remember when Vince and I would run out to the front field to catch my dad’s brothers as they loaded a flat wagon full of square bales. One of our uncles would hoist us up on to the load to ride. As they stacked the hay, we’d climb higher and higher. What a ride!

Not so many years later, I wanted to help out in the fields, too, though the crews were all guys. I’m not sure how I talked Dad into letting me work, but he did, and though I dealt with teasing—girls weren’t supposed to be out in the hay—I eventually gained respect.

In my late teens and early twenties, bucking bales was a regular summer ritual, not only for our farm, but many in the area. In fact, I remember our county paper running a story, calling it a “rite of passage.” And it was then. Although some farmers started gravitating toward round bales, the square variety still made up the majority. Ads in the paper for hay crews were common, charging so many cents per bale. I even lured the guy I was dating then (and married to now) out into the fields to help. I remember those days, working the flatbed wagon, Dad and Mike throwing bales to me as I stacked and Mom drove. My younger brothers would roll the stray bales in line so Dad and Mike didn’t have to walk as far. Eventually those brothers ended up working the wagon, too.

Years later Dad bought a small round baler, and we didn’t put up as many square bales. But we still worked the fields. Then we’d roll those bales on to the wagon, and he’d store some on the loft. He even added an extension to his loader bucket to hoist them up with the tractor. Kids and dogs loved jumping on those round bales, my daughter included.

At some point we stopped doing hay ourselves. As Dad got older and the boys traded in the hay field for the mission field, there were more cows to feed and milk, and it made more sense to buy hay elsewhere. Our days bucking bales were behind us. So many of the neighboring farms abandoned the tradition as well.

Yet now we find ourselves back to our old ways, bucking bales. People still need to feed horses and cattle, after all. Which brings me back to this moment in time: Me, standing on the trailer, stacking hay, recalling all the little things from days in hay fields’ past—hay inside my clothes and in my nose, tiny scratches on my arms from handling the bales. The conversations, flowing like the stray breezes as we move from bale to bale. All of us together, out there, under the forgiving sun. Seeing Dad in the back of my mind, patiently tossing up another bale for the top of the load.

And me, loving every minute of it.


The end result of bucking bales.
Bales stacked in the toolshed. Picture by Mike Moore

8 Responses

  1. Ann

    Lots and lots of memories….
    Today thinking about it makes me tear up. The farm family is united by cords that can’t be broken….and God made each of us for such a time as this.
    Just a thought….
    Do they bale hay in heaven Gary?

    • amy@amyharkemoore.com

      If they do, Dad is tossing those bales to the top of the load, no shoulder injuries holding him back anymore! 🙂

  2. Kelly Dunn

    My first experience with bucking hay was two years ago helping on the Harke farm. I enjoy being the driver.

    • amy@amyharkemoore.com

      Thanks for the comment, Kelly. Occasionally I’d drive, too, but I actually did a better job stacking. 🙂

  3. calensariel

    What a beautiful memory… It made me quite calm to read it, actually. And I have a feeling more and more folks are going to be going back to the old ways of doing things. Half the country seems to be taking a giant step back putting more and more space between then and the future. Loved this Amy.

    Impromptu Promptlings

    • amy@amyharkemoore.com

      Thanks, Calen! I was in the mood for something a little sentimental with Father’s Day and all. Missing my dad. 🙂

  4. Kay

    Loved this Amy!! Brought back memories of cousins getting together on the farm. I know my kids loved it and always looked forward to coming there. Time goes by so fast now and it’s great to have those smiling memories!

    • amy@amyharkemoore.com

      Oh my gosh, Kay! So good to hear from you! 🙂 I have many fond memories of you, Karl, and Kori visiting the farm, too. I remember our walks in the woods, and also the time Karl spent the night and he and I went exploring down in the woods and I ended up stepping on a thorn. Ouch! But he gallantly helped me back to the house as I hobbled along. . . Yes, great memories, even with the thorn!

      Thanks for stopping by my blog. 🙂