Got Initiated Into the Hay Field

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Saturday, June 28, 1913: Got initiated into the hay field this afternoon, and I can say that I didn’t stay there very long either.

Source: Ladies Home Journal (July, 1913)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

How did Grandma manage to convince her father that she didn’t need to help for very long? It takes a lot of labor to make hay, and I’m surprised that he allowed her to be a slacker.

First the grass needed to be cut, and periodically turned as it dried.

After the grass had dried into hay, it was loaded onto wagons. Horses needed to be held and led as the hay was gathered, and workers needed to fork it onto the wagon.

And, of course, this all needed to be done very quickly—with eyes always looking towards the sky for any clouds that might suggest an impending storm.  As the old saying says—Make hay while the sun shines.

You may also enjoy a previous post about how hay was unloaded from wagons a hundred years ago and moved into the haymows in the barn:

Hay Pulleys and Ropes

30 thoughts on “Got Initiated Into the Hay Field

  1. Maybe she convinced them that it would be better for her to cook a big meal in the kitchen 🙂

    1. Your comment reminds me of my own childhood. I used to offer to cook if my mother would weed the garden. . . and ended up absolutely loving to cook.

  2. I’m anxious to see how her story develops. Maybe that will give clues to some of these things. I’m so enjoying this series.

    Question – not necessarily expecting an answer. What of her characteristics do you feel have come down to you?

    1. Hmm. . . I never really thought about it. . . . caring, observant, smart, persistent. . .

      And, my grandmother (not the teen in the diary, but the older women I knew) was spry. The older I get the more I hope that I’ll be spry like her as I age.

    1. I think it’s fascinating how they put hay into barns back then. I’d love to see a hay hook in operation sometime. I wonder if any antique farm machinery shows do demonstrations of them.

  3. I love how the journal gives us just enough information to start our imaginations. The writer/editor in me wants this to be a scene showing family relationships and setting up a conflict to be resolved later. Hmm. When did your grandmother meet the man who became your grandfather, anyway?

    1. Your comment addresses one of the stranger things about the diary–and I never can quite figure it out. Both my grandfather and grandmother were in the same high school class. The both graduated in 1913–and there were only 6 people in the class. Yet Grandma never mentions my grandfather in the diary.

      I think it may be because he was 3 1/2 years younger than her–and he apparently wasn’t on her radar screen at the time. He must have skipped several grades. He probably just seemed like the smart little kid in her class. They got married when she was 26 and he was 22.

  4. When I was a kid, I used to help my cousins ‘tramp’ the hay. We would stand up in the hay wagon and hop on the hay as they forked it in. Lots of fun, but dangerous and bad if your were allergic to the hay. Jane

    1. I’m learning new things about what was involved in making hay back then. It sounds like the kind of job that I could picture Grandma doing.

    1. Thanks for taking a moment to write the nice note. I have a lot of fun doing this blog and it’s always wonderful to hear when someone enjoys it.

    1. It also seems curious to me,too. Since she went out to the field, it seems like her father must have thought that he’d need her–and I can’t figure out what caused the situation to change so that she didn’t need to stay.

  5. Last time I helped out in a hayfield, I got badly stung by multiple wasps. I was small enough back then to ride the wheel covering of the hay wagon, and it happened on the way back to the barn. There was an overhang of hay, and I was underneath it. Those wasps really got me good. Mom came to the rescue with baking soda and water. Maybe Helen was similarly affected by some critters–or the heat, of course. Could have been pretty hot.

    1. Whew, the stings sound awful. Your comment brings back memories of my mother also treating bee and wasp stings with a paste made of baking soda and water.

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