Cleaning out the hay wagons was one of the earliest chores I remember helping my older sister with. This happened after the large, four-wheeled trailers had had their wooden sides attached and had been rented out for something called a “hayride.”
Later I’d come to understand the allure of these evening rides to a country picnic and bonfire and an even later and much more quiet ride snuggled in the hay on the ride home. At the time I only knew to be careful with the pitch fork, which was longer than I was tall, while climbing over what to me were the towering sides of the trailers.
My sister made sure I would give the forkful of dry straw a good shake before tossing it over the side of the wagon. The goal was to toss the straw with enough gumption so it landed in the property’s barrow pit instead of right next to the trailer.
Dad, and later we kids, would always push the wagon next to a borrow pit before cleaning it out. Later, when conditions were right, Dad would burn the straw, cleaned the pit while ridding ourselves of the leftovers of satisfied customers.
And just why had my sister made sure I gave the pitchfork full of straw a good shake before tossing it over the side of the trailer? Now that you’ve asked, I’ll tell you the anticipated joy we kids felt when someone had rented the trailer for a “hayride.”
It seems there were folks on those hayrides who did not pay attention to what was in their pockets. As I said, I would eventually learn about those distractions. But when we were armed with pitchforks we kids discovered there was always some change falling out of that straw—sometimes even a whole dollar’s worth!
Our folks never had to coax us into cleaning up after someone else’s hayride.
When working on a tractor there is always a need to use a tool. Usually a simple plier or screwdriver or piece of baling wire can patch a problem enough to keep from having to run to the shop.
As I got older it came time for Dad to keep me entertained, even when he was working with one of the two tractors we rented out. And it was evident that, with the clutching and braking and wrestling the unpowered steering wheel of a Ford N series tractor, there was no holding me on his lap.
And that is why one of my first memories is perching my scrawny butt on a narrow tool box on a big fender that kept my little ass from scraping on the big left rear tire of dad’s tractor.
There was an ever-present odor of grease and oil and gasoline and hot engine up there. To this day I think of those aromas as the smell of my dad.
The tool box was the highest I had ever ridden, atop that big tire looking out at the moving world with just air around me. It was nothing like being shut up in a car. The road or ground was right there moving beneath us. And when Dad was plowing or mowing or leveling or disking, the action was churning just under my feet. It was endlessly fascinating to see what Dad was doing to the dirt or the grass. And more than once I terrorized myself thinking how that plow or mower or leveler or those disks would maul my bones into the scenery should I fall off that bit of a tool box as the tractor bounced and tugged and struggled at its tasks.
Which I suppose is why I absolutely always had to have my arm as far as I could reach around my dad’s sweaty chest. No being cool and hanging on to the top edge of the fender, my body arched back and my hair blowing in the summer wind like a carefree movie star sitting atop the back seat of a convertible.
Not that I minded hanging on, even as I got older. It was never a solid ride up there and I was glad for the hand hold. And I’m sure my arm around him made my dad confident he’d know to stop the tractor before any mauling in case my hinny suddenly slip off that bit of a fender perch.
My dad worked full time for Idaho Power Company. He and Mom also operated a rental business out of our home. Or should I say they made a home in the machine shop of the rental business? Half the building was home and half shop.
The business rented a selection of trailers and two Ford tractors including a variety of implements to fit the tractors.
Dad observed that if he didn’t have trailers he’d have to drive a pickup truck so he could haul things. Our camping gear being an example.
It was the 1950s and light weight camping supplies were not an option. We’d be in the Idaho back country for a week and went well supplied for five people and a dog or two. Many of those trips we took off with pack horses to spend time in the wilderness and sometimes we’d just spend the time in a Forest Service campground. But even when we were in the wilderness we’d have a base camp that stayed behind, fully set up.
The first photos I have of our camps is from 1952, when my Dad bought a good camera and light meter. We’d wait for him to set all the adjustments and later look at the slides on the screen he unrolled like an upside down window shade. I remember the smell of that screen as it was pulled from its metal canister.
The next few Car Camping blogs will show how we roughed it through those hot days and cold nights in the outback.