The last summer before I became a desk jockey, my buddies and I got our hands on a ton of grass.
We were hay haulers.
Alfalfa. Fescue. Clover. If your pasture received a haircut, we typically put up the clippings. By my count, our crew hauled 13,000 bales in 1985.
I’d earned a few callouses as a kid, detasseling corn, shoveling horseshit — I lasted one day — and working at a salvage yard.
But in terms of manual labor, nothing compared to hauling hay. The conditions were brutal, the day long, the pay abysmal.
The people, though, were first-rate.
Lunch some days meant Vienna sausages under a shade tree. But more often than not, the boss invited us into his home for a meal. Beans and cornbread. Fish and hushpuppies. Iced tea. Cobbler. Cake. Pie.
The only thing worse than pushing away from the table was getting back to the field.
Afternoons put the grunt in grunt work.
Longsleeved flannel kept the scratches at bay. But there was no dodging the heat. As the haystack on the trailer grew, so did the effort.
And when the sun went down, the tractor lights came on.
The last stop was the barn, in which a dusty haze caked your face and infiltrated your nostrils, producing black snot.
Ten p.m. and the day was done. A beer never tasted so good.