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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of “Don’t Try to Walk before You Can Crawl” (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (01/17/08)

TITLE: Riding on Top of the World
By Emily Gibson


Being part of the hay crew on our farm has been a tradition as long as our children remember-- in my pregnant days, as I was relegated to driving tractor, or rolling bales into position to be picked up by others, they were internally along for the ride. When the kids were babies, they were in backpacks on my back as I helped pick up bales as best I could. When they were old enough to ride beside me on the tractor or in the truck, they longed to graduate to riding on the wagon. Eventually they could help roll bales into position in the field, and finally to buck them onto the wagon or, as strong teenagers, to learn ultimately to stack the load. The greatest privilege is to ride 5 bales high on top of the load on the way back to the barn.

As I’ve worked all the different hay crew jobs over the years, I marvel at my children now learning the progressive roles. I watch gratefully as their younger back leans over to pick up those bales and their nose gets congested with grass pollen. There are advantages to being "older" at times.

It takes teamwork to make a hay crew function. There are different jobs, some simpler, some more complex, but all crucial to the eventual goal of getting the hay safely in the barn. A leader on the crew is essential to direct individuals to the different jobs, and to rotate them as needed to rest the most heavily worked, or cool off the most overheated. They teach a new skill to someone who has yet to learn being part of a hay crew means not whining, no matter how itchy, sweaty and miserable you are, because you are safe in the knowledge that everyone else is just as itchy, sweaty and miserable as you are. There is necessity for good communication: if the driver doesn't listen to the people on the wagon, or the bale buckers don't indicate who is going to grab which bale, it is chaos. There is no slacking off because it is immediately noticed by everyone else. And incompetence becomes readily evident though tolerated primarily in the young and in the city people who don't know better. Teaching others the job on the fly can require patience and understanding of "having been there once myself.".

Stacking hay on the wagon is an example of the most advanced hay crew jobs, reserved for the strongest and most experienced. Done incorrectly, it can result in a significant inconvenience (and possible danger) of a load tipping off the wagon on the way to the barn. Done carefully, there is nothing that can disturb that load. It is secure and solid.

Members of a hay crew, at least for an evening, become best friends. They laugh and commiserate and tell old stories about previous haying years. They eat a great meal together and drink way too much lemonade and ice tea and agree that this is one of the best ways to spend a summer evening. They look at each others' dusty faces and grass strewn clothes and hair and know they all look alike for a few hours. They admire the snow covered mountains to the east glowing orange with the sunset while eagles and hawks gather overhead to dive for newly exposed rabbits in the hayfield.

Best of all, after working their way up the hay crew jobs, they get to ride on top of the world, where the cool wind refreshes and life simply doesn’t get any better.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Dee Yoder 01/27/08
I especially love the last paragraphs. The images portrayed there about the hawks and eagles and the cool breeze on top of the hay are vivid descriptions, indeed.