I started to write a blog to record stories from our family before my thought processes become opaque and many of the memories are lost to my children. The story I’m sharing today is a tale my dad told to us about. It occurred when he was riding in his dad’s car as a youth. They were driving along a road through a rural area of farms and woods. As the car was passing a hay field on a farm, the farmer and his wife were bringing in hay. The farmer was in the field tossing the hay into a hay wagon and the wife was on top of the hay mound that was being formed on the wagon bed.
Now, this was a time when women didn’t usually work in the fields. It was a time when only immigrant women went into the fields with their husbands. If the farmer had sons, they worked with him. If he was rich enough and could afford to hire workers, he did, rather than to have his wife or daughters work in the fields. It wasn’t taboo, but it wasn’t something that the farmer did lightly, either.
The farmer’s wife was tramping down the hay with her bare feet. Her husband was tossing it a forkful at a time onto the wagon. Each pitchfork of hay had to be compressed to increase the amount of hay stacked on the wagon before it had to be driven out of the field and into the barn to unload the hay into mows. The fewer times that the farmer had to interrupt the loading minimized the amount of time that the farmer spent in the field.
The older hay wagons had two uprights at each end of the wagon bed to control and stabilize the load of hay. The double poles rose almost eight feet above the bed of the wagon. When the load reached about ten feet high, it was time to take the hay in and unload it, protected from the weather in the mows of the barn.
That was some background, now let me finish the story. The farmer was tossing the hay and the wife was on top of the load of hay, when she heard the car engine, she attempted to jump down from the load of hay and the skirt of her dress caught on the tips of the upright. She hung on the uprights dangling in midair when the skirt of her dress slid up under her armpits, trapping her there. The bottom two thirds of the woman was open to the air and because it was so hot out, the woman wasn’t wearing undergarments.
It would have taken the old farmer too long to untangle and free his wife from the trapped position that she found herself, so in a split second decision, the farmer removed his hat and covered his wife’s private parts until my grandfather’s car drove past. My dad was sure that as soon as they drove out of sight, the old man rescued his embarrassed wife.
The wife would have been embarrassed on several levels. The first was that she had been caught in the field working, the second was she hadn’t heard our approach earlier, the third was that she was clumsy and had caught her skirt on the poles of the wagon, and the last was obvious. It was quickly exposed to anyone reading this story. I do have to commend the farmer and give him credit for his fast decision to protect his wife’s privacy.