Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

Revisiting the good old days

Often, folks will tell me they like reading about the “Good Ole’ Days” and that it is one of their favorite subjects of my column. Just like them, I often reminisce about the days gone by. I sub-scribe to a couple of magazines that include a lot of stories about the “Olden Days.” Loyal readers send in those stories and of course the folks who publish the magazines edit them. I find that many of the stories are interesting and some are similar to experiences I had as a youth growing up in Johnson County. It is interesting to note that although the stories are written by folks from large cities, small towns or rural areas they often have the same overriding theme: hard times. They often used humor and dreams of a better time to cope with their lot. They show ingenuity in making do with what they had. Many of the stories are set in the days of the “Great Depression.”
I was talking with a man just a few days ago about stacking hay. I’m sure some folks still remember that method of storing and preserving hay. My earliest memory of harvesting hay wasn’t of bal-ing square bales or the round bales. That only came later when someone in the neighborhood purchased a baler and after taking care of his own hay, took his equipment from farm to farm baling other folks’ hay for a fee or a quantity of hay.
My earliest memory of haying was using the haystack method. A pole was set deep in the ground and hay was stacked around the pole. It started out with a pretty large base and tapered off as it neared the top of the pole. My father, Allen Swift, cut the hay with a horse-drawn mowing machine. The cutter bar was geared to the wheels and as the wheels rolled along the cutter bar was activated to cut the hay. After the hay dried, a horse-drawn trip-rake was used to bring the hay to where the stack was located. Then a pitch-fork was used to throw the hay around the pole. A stacker packed the hay as it was thrown up around the pole. If it were properly stacked, the hay would be preserved for feeding the stock animals later. It was labor intensive. I suppose, if those horse-drawn mowers were still around, they would be quite valuable. But, I have seen a few horse-drawn type rakes in the front yards of some folks and they appeared to be pretty well preserved.
Another farm chore I remember was harvesting wheat or other grain. Anyone who remembers that will attest to the fact that it was one of the hardest of all the farm jobs except maybe hanging tobacco in the barn. There was usually someone in the neighborhood who owned a thrashing machine and would thrash for others too. There’s a few of those machines still around. But they are usually in a bad state of repair from setting so long unused and unneeded. I saw one somewhere just the other day. The thrashing machine was a huge machine for separating the grain from the straw. It was operated with a series of belts and pulleys. A tractor with a large belt connection powered the thrashing machine.
In earlier days the grain was cut, bundled and stacked in the field. It was cut by hand using an implement called a cradle. A cradle is an implement with rods like fingers attached to a scythe and used for harvesting grain. A cradle is on display at the Johnson County Welcome Center on South Shady Street in Mountain City. The bundles were hand-tied with a strand of wheat and placed in a stack in the field. The bundles were then hauled to the thrashing machine, tossed into an opening on top of the machine and the grain came out a spout while the straw was blown into a stack be-side the thrasher. It was a hot, dusty job. My wife says she remembers that her dad, Ray Ward, outfitted the horse-drawn rake so that it could be pulled with a tractor. A little modernizing always helps when it comes to the hot job of “making hay.”
I suppose there are several folks who can identify with these farm chores. I guess it’s good to remember those times but I doubt any of us would want to go back to when those harvesting methods were used.