Celeste giggled as she chewed a piece of grass taken from the hay bale she sat on. The hay wagon bounced its way down the road pulled by the powerful green Oliver 1650 tractor. We loved bringing in a load of hay. It was the best reward to follow the hard work of throwing the heavy bales on the wagon, the careful stacking to fit a full load and not lose any on the way home. The ride on top of the load was our favorite part of the job. It was a ride no carnival or parade could match. The summer sun tanned your back while a cooling breeze in your face wiped the sweat away. The view of the countryside from thirty feet up on a moving stack of bundled grass made the work seem worthwhile.
Today, Grandpa drove and Grandma rode on top with us kids. Cousin Michael was experiencing his first trip on the swaying bales. He looked a little nervous as he peered over the edge of the wagon to see the road moving past at 15 miles per hour. The load was extra high on this trip.
It was the last one of the day. Every single bale had been crammed on the high-sided wood-frame wagon to avoid another trip to pick up a few bales. All we had to do now was get them in the loft before the afternoon was gone. Then we would sit on the milk room concrete porch, drink cold, fresh milk, and eat some of Grandma’s chocolate chip brownies. Yum!
As the tractor slowed to make the turn into the driveway, we ducked under the overhead power lines and looked back at the wisps of hay drifting off the load into the summer breeze. The wagon creaked and groaned under the strain of the load.
Cousin Michael said, “It sounds like this old thing is going to break.”
We laughed at him as Grandma answered, “It’s sounded like this for fifteen years. This old wagon will probably be here long after you grow up.”
As the tractor made the gradual turn to go around the back side of the barn, the wagon bounced on the gravel and groaned some more. Another turn, the heavily loaded wagon leaned, hit another bump followed by a loud “SNAP!” and we were thrown over the left side of the wagon as it tipped over! Hay bales dumped around us in an avalanche. Celeste got buried by twenty or so bundles and was screaming so loud we thought she was going to die. Mom and Grandma dug her out and saw she was unhurt, just very scared. I wasn’t so lucky. Cousin Michael’s chin had hit me in the back of the head as we fell. Blood soaked my shirt and it was a long time before hair grew back through the scab that formed.
Later, after all the injuries were treated and the hay finally put away, we did get to sit on the milk room porch and drink ice-cold fresh milk. We even made some ice cream.
Cousin Michael couldn’t resist telling Grandma, “I told you it was going to break.”