D. E. Larsen, DVM
The sun was just poking up over the Cascade foothills as I headed home from an early morning calf delivery in Crawfordsville. The weather was super, and I am sure that all the Memorial Day campers were making their last-minute plans for the big weekend.
We had been in Sweet Home for several years now, and without failure, Memorial Day weekend was the same every year. We would see a steady stream of traffic coming through town headed to the mountains for the weekend. Then on Sunday, or at the latest, Monday, the rain would start. All the happy, optimistic campers would be staggering back through town with wet crying kids hanging from the windows. Soaked tents and sleeping bags almost dragging behind the trailers.
I turned at Holley Church to take Old Holley Road into town. I just wanted to check on another local legend. If my prediction was correct, Jake Marker would be cutting his hay this morning.
Jake was always the first to cut his hay. And without fail, Jake would get his hay cured and in the barn before Memorial Day. The remarkable thing was, he would accomplish this feat without getting a drop of rain on his hay. Jake’s hay was the best in the Sweet Home area.
As I came around the corner, Jake’s ranch came into view. I could see Jake on his tractor, already in the field, mowing his grass. It would be interesting to watch the next few days to see if he could again beat the odds and get his hay in the barn before the inevitable holiday rainstorm.
“Did you see old Jake mowing his hay yesterday?” Irvin said when he was in to pay his bill.
“Yes, I drove by his place yesterday morning, just to check,” I said. “The sun was just up, and he was out in the field with his mowing machine already.”
“I don’t know how he figures it,” Irvin said. “But he gets his hay in the barn before Memorial Day every year. And then a couple of others, who watch for Jake, start cutting theirs. But they always lag a day or two. Jake’s hay goes in the barn dry, and the good Lord brings the rain. Then all those campers get soaked, and the other’s hay gets wet. Their hay lies out there in the field, and most years, it is completely ruined.”
“You would think if they were going to do their hay early, that they would start cutting the same day that Jake cuts his hay rather than waiting a day to two,” I said.
“I know, it is hard to figure how some people make decisions,” Irvin said. “And it is the same every year. Jake cuts his hay, and the sun stays out. Then I guess it is the same as those campers going through town this coming Friday. They figure it will hold for the whole weekend.”
“Old Jake is pretty tight-lipped about how he decides when to cut hay,” Irvin said. “I have tried to pump him for his system a time or two, and he never says a word. I have no clue about how he decides when to cut.
“One of Glenn’s fields, out on the highway, I have not seen them get the hay off the field once in the years we have been here,” I said.
“It has been going on long before you came to town, Doc,” Irvin said. “The wife and I snicker about it every year. I just go about my business and cut my hay when we have a good stretch of good weather later in June. My hay might not be a pretty as Jake’s, but it is a heck of a lot better than Glenn’s.”
“Well, from what I have seen, Jake works pretty hard getting his hay dry,” I said. “He will be out there working it, turning in over every day at least. Sometimes, I think he maybe turns it morning and night on some days.”
“Yes, I know,” Irvin said. “All that gas just adds to the total cost of hay. Grass hay is worth so much, you know.”
“I had argued that point before,” I said. “But changing the way you do things is hard, sometimes. I think guys would get more value from their grass if they gave up on the grass hay idea and concentrated on posturing it until it dried up in the late summer. They might even need to buy some feeder steers to pasture for a few months in the spring and summer.”
“I haven’t heard that idea,” Irvin said. “What are you going to do for feed in the winter.”
“Rather than having all that expensive hay equipment that sets in the shed most of the year, why not buy alfalfa hay,” I said. “The nutritional value of alfalfa is far superior to grass hay. I think if we put a pencil to it, you would come out on top.”
“Doc, my guess is you’re going to have a lot of talking before you get people to change their haying practices around here,” Irvin said.
I made a point of checking Jake’s progress each evening before going home after the clinic was closed. As Irvin and I had discussed, he worked hard at getting his hay dry. That probably had as much to do with getting it in the barn before the rain started as any magic formula that Jake had in his back pocket.
This year was no exception. Jake hauled his hay to the barn on Saturday. It started with light rain on Sunday. And on Monday, there was a downpour, and the bedraggled campers started their parade back through town. And Glenn’s hay, not yet baled, was soaked as it laid in windrows in the field.
Photo by Barbara Olsen from Pexels.