The Sandman: His Farm Stories  by Willliam J. Hopkins

The Hay Story

dropcap image NCE upon a time there was a farm-house, and it was painted white and had green blinds; and it stood not far from the road. In the fence was a wide gate to let the wagons through to the barn. And the wagons, going through, had made a little track that led up past the kitchen door and past the shed and past the barn and past the orchard to the wheat-field.

All about were other fields. One of them was a great enormous field, and in this field was growing grass that would be made into hay.

One day, when the summer was nearly half over, Uncle John saw that the little tassels at the tops of the stems of the grass were getting yellow, and he knew that the grass was ripe enough to cut for hay; and the grass was as high as little John's head. So, very early the next morning, Uncle Solomon and Uncle John took their scythes and their whetstones and went over to the great enormous field, and two other men came to help. When the grass that these other men had was ready to cut, then Uncle Solomon and Uncle John would go and help them cut it.

And they had a jug, and in it was water, with some molasses and a little vinegar mixed with it. This was for them to drink when they got very hot and thirsty, mowing, and they put it down by the stone wall, where it was cool.


Then the men all took their whetstones and sharpened their scythes, and Uncle Solomon started first, at the corner of the field, and he swung his scythe back and forth, and every time he swung the scythe it cut down some grass and made a noise, "Swish." And then he took a little step ahead and swung the scythe again, and he walked very slowly along, cutting the grass. And when Uncle Solomon had got a little way along, so that the next scythe wouldn't cut him, Uncle John began next to the place where Uncle Solomon had begun, and he swung his scythe and walked slowly along, cutting the grass. Then one of the other men began at the next place, when Uncle John had got a little way along, and then the last man. So all the men were walking slowly along, swinging their scythes together, and cutting the grass, and the grass fell down in four long rows. And they mowed this way all the morning, and cut down all the grass in the field.


And just when they had finished, and all the grass was cut down, they heard the horn that Aunt Deborah was blowing. That meant that dinner was ready. They had a horn to blow for dinner because the men had to work in fields that were far from the house, where they couldn't hear a dinner-bell. But they could hear the horn. So the horn hung on a hook beside the kitchen door; and when dinner was ready, Aunt Deborah took the horn from the hook and blew it.

When the men heard the horn, they took their coats and their scythes and their whetstones and the jug, and they went back along the road to the farm-house and left the grass lying there, just as it fell down. And the sun shone on the grass and dried it, so that it was changing to hay.

Then, the next morning, Uncle Solomon and Uncle John took their pitchforks and went over to the field and spread the grass out evenly, so that it would dry better; and they left it until the afternoon.

In the afternoon, Uncle John and Uncle Solomon took two great wide wooden rakes, and little John took a little rake, and they went to the field. Then Uncle Solomon and Uncle John each held one of the great wide rakes so that it trailed behind, and they walked along and the rakes rolled the grass up into long rows. Then they walked along the other way, trailing the rakes, and the grass rolled up into piles, and little John raked after. They call the piles of hay haycocks, and they were as high as little John's head. Then they went away and left the hay there all night.

In the morning, when the sun had shone on the haycocks long enough to dry off the dew, Uncle John got out the old oxen. And they put their heads down, and he put the yoke over and the bows under, and he hooked the tongue of the hay-cart to the yoke. Then he put little John up in the cart and took the pitchforks, and gave little John his little rake. And the old oxen started walking slowly along, out into the road and along the road to the great enormous field, and in at the gate. And they walked along beside one of the haycocks, and there they stopped.

Then Uncle John lifted little John out of the cart, and Uncle Solomon and Uncle John both stuck their pitchforks into the haycock and lifted it right up and pitched it over the side of the cart, so that it fell into the cart. Then they went along to the next haycock and pitched that in the same way, and little John raked after, raking up the hay that had dropped from the pitchforks. So they went along to the other haycocks and pitched them into the cart, and when the hay was nearly up to the top of the side of the cart, Uncle John climbed in, and he made the hay even in the cart, with his fork. Uncle Solomon pitched the hay up into the cart, and Uncle John made it even in the cart, so it couldn't fall out, and they piled the hay up in the cart until it was a great enormous load, higher than the room. And little John raked after.


When they had made the load as high as they could, the old oxen started and turned around, and walked back through the gate and along the road to the farm-house, and in at the gate and up the track past the kitchen door and past the shed, and in at the big door of the barn. And they went along in the open place in the barn and stopped in the middle, so that the load of hay was beside the floor of the loft where the hay was kept, and the top of the load was higher than the floor of the loft.

Then Uncle Solomon climbed up the ladder to the loft, and Uncle John pitched the hay from the cart to the loft. And Uncle Solomon took his fork and pitched the hay back against the wall and packed it tight, so that they could get more in when they brought it, and fill the loft as full as it would hold.

When all the hay was out of the cart, Uncle Solomon came down from the loft, and the oxen started walking along, out of the other big door and around the barn and back to the hay-field. Then they filled the cart again, the same way that they did the first time, and put that hay in the barn. And they had to go back three times after the first time before they had all the hay that was in the field. And when it was all in the barn, there was hay enough for the horses and the oxen and the cows to eat all winter.

Then the old oxen walked out through the other door of the barn, and around the barn to the shed. And Uncle John unhooked the tongue of the cart and put the cart in the shed, and he took off the yoke and the oxen went into the barn and went to sleep.

And that's all.