Healthy dislike of oats for hay


It’s funny how something someone says in a completely unrelated conversation will take you a trip down memory lane into events that you hadn’t thought about in years. Such an incident occurred over the past weekend.

Three or four of we guys were visiting with our pastor in his office and talking farming. We talked about how meager the hay crop was going to be this year, which is when one of the men mentioned that he baled oats this year, and the other two agreed that oats are as good as hay.

Now don’t get the impression that I have real opinion about the nutritional value of hay, but I can without hesitation say that I don’t like oats for hay. Period.


It was the late 1960s and life on the farm wasn’t as enjoyable for a boy who had begun to wonder what might be going on beyond the boundaries of the Ponderosa (we really didn’t call our farm The Ponderosa. Just sayin’). Dad had sown several acres of oats that year and was earlier conflicted as to whether he would combine or bale them. He chose the latter.

I remember the heat was searing, and the moisture content of the oats was probably too high to bale and put into the barn but for some reason we did anyway. If you know anything about packing excessively damp hay into a barn in the heat of the summer, you know the results can be devastating.

Predictably, under Dad’s watchful eye, the hay began heating up and he assigned the job of breaking up hay bales to me and a cousin, Jerry Fyffe.

Jerry and I were not opposed to working hard, but we were opposed to working hard when having fun might go neglected. So, we tried to do both. We had one of the better hay fights I believe I ever engaged in!

For some reason, that wasn’t the idea Dad had for us upon assigning us hay-busting duty. As I recall, Jerry started it.

Don’t ask him, though. He may lie to you.

I am sure there was more to Dad being upset with us than our just being playful, but nonetheless, after several instructions from down on the ground to “knock off playing and get on with the work” which we (yes, I said WE, Jerry) ignored, I (yes I said I, Jerry) was in trouble! Big trouble!

Dad instructed me to come out of the hay mound to receive my punishment, and knowing the sad nature of that, this 12-year old boy knew he had best become resourceful beyond his years quickly! And I did. It wasn’t graceful. It wasn’t pretty.

And most of all it wasn’t nice, but it was the only way I thought I could escape the grips of a certain display of correction to my behind!

I pretended not to hear him, and I knew that because my father was asthmatic, he wouldn’t come up into the hay mound to get me! I stand before you today because of that decision. He didn’t come up to get me, but he was waiting nearby when I came down.

Thankfully, enough time had passed that he began to see some humor in it all, and he didn’t kill me as I feared he might (not really, that’s just how, never-mind).

I don’t mean to leave you with the impression that he and I had a good laugh about it, put our arms around one another’s shoulders and went and shared an iced tea. No, as I remember It was a day or two later before sitting was comfortable, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had earlier feared.

As for my cousin Jerry, well, he slipped out somehow without receiving the wrath of my dad, not to mention, he was an adult by this point (in age only), but I still love him anyway.

Yes, I found it somewhat humorous over the weekend that just the mere mention of oats hay, made it uncomfortable to sit down even 50 years later! Thanks guys!

Herb Day

Contributing columnist

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