"Hay Making"

 

This is another of the tales found on my old computer written years ago and just dug out, Enjoy.

Hay Making.

 

Photo Courtesy "Otterman"

 

My Mother Florence, "Florrie" Prescott, standing by the finished hay rick.

 

Have you ever smelt newly mown Hay? I doubt it!

Not hay that that had not been touched with a drop of anything from a can with scull and cross bones on, or been liberally salted with small white and grey pellets of artificial fertiliser. This hay in 1952-3 was full of natural herbs and grasses, red and white clover several types of vetches, coltsfoot, meadow sweet, a small amount of buttercups daisies and dead and stinging nettles and a few spray docks that had got back in after pulling (One job keeping the grass sweet was to have a session pulling the unwanted docks as they grew.) The only fertiliser used was from the cows that grazed the pasture.

About the end of May beginning of June the crop was ready to mow, the old Bamford mower was readied for the cut, this entailed removing and sharpening the knife with a sharp file in the vice on the bench in the tractor shed, each section being filed at a time, if any sections were loose they had to be re-riveted and sections that were broken removed and replaced with new ones.

The fingers were straightened and set and all rust removed, the knife was then refitted and the wooden connecting rod checked for cracks, the nuts and bolts tightened, it was then greased up and old sump oil poured over the beam (the bar the knife and fingers was attached too).

The swarf board was usually replaced with a new one, as it always got broken the year before reversing in a heavy crop. We then sharpened the spare knife and prayed for fine weather the next morning,

Yes the weather was set fair and the early sun had lifted the dew early, and the larks were singing in the bright blue sky above, with only a few billowing white cloud slowly passing by. The crop looked good and as soon as the problem of mowing the long wet hadland (headland) grass had been accomplished, with the need to run very slowly which did not suit the trailed mower as this set the speed for the knife, as power came from the turning wheels, this caused the knife to block and the only way was to, lift the beam reverse the mower a good distance back, get of the tractor and pull the stubborn jammed grass and docks from the knife. Then hope enough room for speed was built up to start back into the uncut grass again.

Once this first cut around the field was achieved, the problem usually got better as the sun had dried the moister from the grass away from he hedgerow. The back swarf was always the worked offender. (The back swarf was the first swarfe cut around the field cut in the opposite direction to the rest of the crop, you then had to cut the next swafe over which you had driven with the tractor the previous way.)

The old Standard Fordson N was low to the ground and so caused problems dragging up hay that had been cut with its sump.

But by the time the Hadland had been mown as I say the strong warm sun had dried the main crop out, and so you could usually run around the field quite sweetly with not that many stops to unblock the knife again, the grass falling from the beam and swarf board into neat rows, and already starting to smell sweet.

By the time the centre of the field was reached, a couple of grazing rabbits would run out of the last uncut crop, but fortunately for them Peter had left his four-ten shotgun at home.

By two thirty the crop was down and time to go to the farmhouse for some dinner.

After dinner Pete said we would pull the old swarf turner out of the tin shed pole barn, and replace some of the broken spring tines, just as many as we had in the tractor shed hanging on the wall, but not enough to replace all of the broken ones, the drawbar needed replacing as it was broken last year, a ash pole cut from the hedge row a week before was used for this. The machine was then greased up and bolts tightened. (Have you noticed how efficient farmers are they never do anything until the last minute, and then nearly when it is to late)

We walked back over to the mown field to see how the hay was making; Pete said it would probably be ready for turning by dinnertime tomorrow. So we may as well goo and make a start on the Ark huts for the pullets that we are making.

 

By about noon the hay was dry. The strong sun that morning having burnt of the early dew. We topped up the old standard Fordson with fuel and water and hitched it to the old rusty swarf turner. This had been pulled by horses in its earlier life and still had fitted the old cast iron driving seat.

I was allowed to ride on this as long as I held on tight.

The trip leaver had been converted to work from the tractor by fitting a length of rope. The driver pulled on this at the end of the row to lift it, then pulled it again at the beginning of the next bout to lower it back into work.

Well this was working fine, and I was enjoying the ride. We had covered about three quarters of the crop when Peter yanked on the rope to drop the machine back into work. And without him noticing, (well he was always somewhere else), the rope broke and flew backwards rapping around my body this shocked me an I lost my balance and fell backwards from the seat doing a backwards summersault into the large crop of sweet hay.

It was not until he had reached the other end of the field that he realised that the rope and I had gone. He climbed from the old tractor lit another Senior Service and then came running back (well walking) to see if I was all right. I said yes I had fallen onto the hay.

He said, “ you should have ola’d to let me know”.

Oh yes I’m going to olla while doing a backwards somersault into the hay en I.

The next day the hay was turned twice once before dinner once before tea.

By now the aroma from the crop was stunning, it was now about six thirty, the sun was just starting to sink behind the new tin sheep barn. The bees were buzzing still feeding from the heads of red clover, and the evening moths starting to flutter.

The church bell rang seven times just as the last swarf was turned.

Pete said by the look of the sun it was “gooing to be fine agen tommora”.

He lit another cigarette, shaking the packet and hoping more would appear.

“We best goo and see if we can fit the sweep frame on the old girl I think Fred as been fitting a new tine on the sweep today. (These were made of lancewood the same wood used on the top class horse drawn vehicles shafts. nearly impossible to source these days)

Fitting the sweep frame was not easy.

To start with it was heavy made of sturdy angle iron, it was also cumbersome to say the least.

The back part fitted onto the drawbar. Passing under the tractor to were it was attached at the front end with brackets round the front axle.

Not the best bit of engineering ever invented.

The sweep had to be manhandled onto a trailer for transportation to the field and then manhandled off again. Both a four-man job.

The next morning was bright but showers had been forecast later in the day.

I t was all hands to the pump as we say.

The Launchbury beige and red elevator had been pulled into position, is old Lister one and a half horse engine fired up, and filled with water (that was to be one of my jobs for the day keeping the engine toped up with water.) the flat belts were fitted, and one or two tines replaced. The base of the rick was laid out with some of last season’s straw,

The old rust Standard Fordson N that once had spade lugs fitted but new sported a set of bold rubber tyred rear wheel, but still steel on the front, was started from underneath the hedgerow that it now lived to be put into use rowing in the hay.

Billy Nelder had taken another day off work from Hinkin’s & Frewin’s to drive the tractor for the day.

We used to put four swarfs into one, which made it easier to sweep the hay with less running about to get a full sweep full.

By about eleven we were ready “to make a start”, on our rick.

Pete brought the first two full sweep-full’s of hay up close to the rick base, the old Standard Fordson with steam coming out of the top of the radiator filler cap was purring away like it was enjoying this job, and Pete was chewing on a length of grass and doing his cod fish impression with his mouth. His check shirtsleeves rolled up past the elbows. There was now a small army of helpers come for the day all armed with pitchforks and ready to pitch in to the tack ahead.

Fred and his cousin Philip Williams, called in for the day from Pete’s cousins “Long Toms” farm, to lend a hand, these two were going to build the rick.

For the first four-foot or so of the rick the hay was thrown up to these two from the sweep loads manually, with just the pitch forks.

Ken Waller was over from Bush House over the road and was the main man for the day and being tall he had quite an advantage doing this job. Pete’s father Hubert was lending a hand but kept getting in the way has he suffered badly with arthritis and had a job to move quickly. Mother and Pete’s twin sister Peggy had come along to give a hand too, and with this job every bit helped to get the hay into the rick.

By the time the rick was up to four foot high, Old Hubert had been back along to the farmhouse, and brought back with him huge doorstop cheese sandwiches and a large enamel jug full of tea covered with a tea towel. We all stopped for a quick lunch break, before pushing the Launchbury elevator into position and starting the Lister engine. Ken was now feeding the hopper of the elevator, and the rest of us were throwing him a heap from the swept loads that Pete continued to bring us.

Billy had hooked the hay rake that had been converted from an horse drawn one and again still had the cast steel seat fitted, he was raking up the hay that Pete had missed with the sweep into new rows to be swept up later, at the end of the rick build. By five o’clock the rick was up to the eaves, some light cloud had started to pass overhead, I could see that there were a few worried faces, were we going to collect and get it into the rick before the showers arrived?

Fred had left by now, he had sixty cows to milk, but Peters mate Colin Stockford had arrived to give us a hand.

Ken had nipped back over to check on his battery hens and to make sure the new fangled but temperamental self-feeding belt and egg chute was working.

Billy had also left the scene leaving the steel wheeled Fordson ticking over on its own, to “take his misses to the doctor in Bloxham” he said.

The flat belt on the elevator had started to fray at the steel joint, and one of the lance-wood tines on the sweep had broken, Hubert looked up, and then over to Peter on the tractor, and pointed his stick to the sky, Pete gesturing back with his hands saying he knew.

Philip also took note of the darkening sky and had sent Colin along to the farmyard in his van to find a suitable tarpaulin to cover the rick should it rain.

I was doing my best to help fork hay into the elevator hopper for Philip but most of it was falling back over my head, I was just not tall enough, Hubert was thrown most of his over me as well. Peter was by this time getting rather frustrated, he had already sent his sister and my mother home as they were doing little to help he said, mother had gone home to cook fathers tea though I think but she had said that she would pop back along later.

The “Old Fool” as Peter called his father, was hindering more than helping he said.

I am sure I felt a spot or two of rain, or was it water spitting out of the Lister engine on the elevator, I hope so I thought. Anyway Colin had arrived back from the farm yard, with an old railway tarpaulin and dragged it out of the back of his Jowett van, and helped us to feed the hopper. Ken arrived back followed shortly afterwards by Billy.

It was starting to come a few spots, the old elevator was having a job to cope with the amount of hay that was being throw on to it, so was Philip building the rick with the amount falling out of the elevator. Ken climbed up the wooden ladder now propped against the side of the rick to give Phil a hand, he would always wear wellies, not a good idea on newly mown slippery hay, and he only climbed on to the rick when hesliped and just missed Phillips fork.

Philip was now trying to form the gable end of the rick but with Ken flailing about the rick was getting wider rather than narrower. Phil was getting redder in the face trying to keep up with the amount of hay fired up to him, and Ken trying to help but hindering slipping and sliding on the hay and getting under his feet Phillip was to polite a bloke to tell him to get down, and it was starting to drizzle a bit.

Pete had about four sweep full’s left in the field plus the smaller rows that Billy had raked up. Hubert had been sent home to make some tea, and out of the damp Pete said, good excuse I thought.

Ken was now slipping about on the rick like a fish on a wet slab, he had lost his fork over the side four times, and had nearly knocked Philip off three, enough was enough, Philip suggested politlitly that Ken would be better employed helping to get the sheet rolled out ready, well I think that’s what he said, rather than knocking the sides out of the rick.

Well by the time he had failed to find the top rung of the ladder a few times and let his fork slip to the ground, every one had stopped what they were doing, “ what’s he doing” said Peter, “ I think he’s trying to come down” Colin said laughing, we all were by this time, laughing, and standing at the bottom of the ladder, “put your foot down to the right” someone said, well he didn’t know his left from his right did old Ken, he missed the top rung and fell sideward’s, like a basking whale into the arms of the blokes standing at the bottom of the ladder.” I never could stand heights he stuttered” now he tells us.

The light drizzle was now more like rain, and every one was getting wet. Phillip was having a job to stop laughing at Ken’s predicament, and nearly fell from the rick as well.

Peter was not amused, “ lets get the bloody rick finished before it really starts to rain,” he bellowed.

Just then the belt on the elevator snapped, this was really the last thing that we wanted to happen but it had been looking like it for some while. We had this enormous pile of grass, that it was now fast becoming, to get onto the top of the rick without an elevator. Well there was only one way to fork it up the ladder, in forkfuls. We had no spare belt for the elevator did we, and it was raining.

Billy took the first few forkfuls up the wet slippery ladder, slipping four rungs after going up two, and more hay was falling from his fork than he was taking up.

Colin stepped up to the plate, “let me take up the last few forkfuls he said putting on a brave front, he always thought he could do more than he could he was not that fit and suffered illness a lot, but he was game for a few minuets anyway.

By now every thing was becoming wet and the need to finish the rig had got out of hand. Then with a particular heavy forkful at the top of the ladder Collins for stale suddenly broke with a crack he lost his balance, he first feel forward then backwards, and fell onto the hay below the ladder. Would this job ever get finished, it was now becoming a faste. We only needed four or five fork full’s of hay to finish the rick, steam was coming from Phil’s back, all he wanted was to get home to his mothers tea, he had been working hard that day, but he always did.

“Throw us another forkfuls up he said and that ull do”, he said.

How were we going to get the tarpaulin onto the rick without an elevator?

First the boys tried to push it up the side of the slippery rick, but the sheet also being wet, they kept loosing there hand holds and the sheet kept falling back on top of them.

Ken had laid under it twice and Colin four times, Peter was tying to supervise prodding at the sheet with the broken fork stale, I stopped well out of the way, I wasn’t going to get laid under the sheet as well, and Billy could see what was happening and was reluctant to help, he shouted up to Phillip that it was like Fred Carnos circus down here, Phillip shouted back “ well if they don hurry up and sort sumut out soon I’m coming down.

I said to Peter, why don’t you put it onto the elevator and we can wind it up by hand turning the belt pulley.

“We could give it a goo,” he said with every one nodding their heads, why didn’t we think of that Colin said, “ perhaps we should all goo back to school’ Pete said,” I didn’t think you went in the first place,” said Billy grinning. While this activity was going on the shower had past, and the sun was shining over the top of Wiggington hill through a large rainbow. “Are we gooing to put this cover on or not" shouted Phil, "or I be coming down, me tea’s getting cold”. “What does it look like from up there?” shouted Peter. “ The same as it looks like from down there" was the reply.

Anyway it was decided to leave the tarpaulin off, between them, saying that the breeze that had picked up after the storm, would dry it back out better without it on, and the last thing that was wanted was the rick to sweat. Philip climbed down the elevator slowly and said he was going home to his now cold cooked tea. Colin and Billy decided they would go for a pint down at the Wykham Arms, just has my mother arrived back with me coat, saying "I hope you ent got wet”. Ken left saying his hens needed checking for the night and the red lights put on for them. (That’s another story).

Pete sheeted up the Lister engine on the elevator, and hid the forks under the rick, I don’t know what for, as if someone would steal them, he placed the food basket onto the Standard Fordson and drove off towards the middle gateway Billy had already parked the other tractor back under the hedgerow, Mother and me walked along the road home. All's well that ends well as they say. 

*******     

 

 

"Threshing",

This is one of the tale's from my time growing up on the farm in the fifties.

I wrote it years ago so some of it might feel a bit wooden, it was before I really got into this writing lark and me words didn't flow as they usually do now, but I still have me "wooden" moments.

 Anyway here is the story, and I have at least another dozen if you get's bored.

 

Threshing Drum picture.

 

This ransomes drum is fitted with a "Trusser' that placed the straw back into sheaves for use of the local Thatcher.

 

Threshing. corn in the fifties.

This could take place either in the autumn or the spring. It usually depended on the Hiron’s again, and if they couldn’t fit us in as they used to say. Pete would forget his loyalty to them and get the Bursons from Swerford to thresh the rick in question.

The price of the corn at the time, usually dictated to when it was decided to cash in the crop.

Peter did not like to keep surplus amounts about, for he said, “the mice and the rats ull eat through the sacks and we ull end up losing half the grain we threshed. It wunt be worth growing it, and I shall at-err think of sumut else to plant”. Just the thought of this managed to bring on one of his headaches.

When I got a hint, or even heard rumour’s that the threshing was going to happen, I would ask mother if I could have a couple of days off school to help. “You will have to ask your teacher” she said, “and I shall expect a note from her to say that it is alright”.

Well Miss Upton wasn’t a bad old stick, and she could see that this would help with me education, even if I only learnt how to get in the way. She said she would make an exception this time, and give me time of school to attend, but I would have to write an essay on threshing corn upon my return. Well she always said she would make an exception and needed an essay, but I don’t think I ever wrote one that’s why me spellin and diction’s sir bad.

Anyway Pete managed to get hold of the Hiron’s somehow, and the old pink and red threshing drum was drawn up along side the wheat rick, in the rickyard along the Wigginton road, while I was at school. The wire tie baler had been positioned in front of the straw walkers at the front of the threshing drum and the Field Marshall tractor chocked up, ready to fit the flat belt that ran the drum. These were missing when I reached the yard, you wouldn’t see Old George leaving them in position or he wouldn’t have been able to sleep that night.

The next morning I arose to the drone of the threshing drum filling the air. I knocked the top off me boiled egg, and soon dunked the toast soldiers into it, I grabbed me old coat and flat hat while I was still drinking me tea. You wouldn’t have seen me getting ready for school this quickly I can tell you. I was gone as fast as me feet could carry me; I was still trying to force me right heel into me welly as I past Taffy Hughes house.

When I got to the rickyard there was already a frenzy of activity. The drone and chattering of the drum, and the clonk-chunk from the baler as Henry tripped the knotter’s, and the slap slapping of the flat belts on the drum, and from the pulley on the old tractor. And she was chug chugging away to her self, and I swear she had a beaming smile across the front of her bonnet.

Anyway, the noise it’s self had sent me to seventh heaven. This was well better than being at school I thought, and there was so much more to learn.

I first asked Ray why he had got the straps that he usually wore around the tops of his wellies, round his trousers just under the knee.

He said “well if you hang’s around long enough you’ll find out, and if you have got any sense at all you’ll tie some baggy, (string) round the bottom of your’n as well.

Or tuck yer trousers into the tops of yer wellies”.

I thought I had better do as he said, but I didn’t know why.

Peter and young Colin Stockford from Swerford were up on top, one on the rick throwing the sheaf’s to the drum, and the other cutting the binder twine around them and feeding the crop into the drum.

Ray said I could give him a hand to pull the elevator into position, as they would need it, when they got further down the rick. We used the old Standard Fordson to pull it into place, and then went to help Henry with the bales of straw.

Ken from over the road, and Tom Powell from one of the white farms up on the top road at Wiggy, were as busy as bees bagging up the wheat as it flowed from the chutes on the drum.

And there wasn’t that much spillage, but still enough to make Pete moan.

The bales were heavy, and it took Ray with all his reserves of muscle to lift them. His face had turned the colour of one of Uncle Tom’s prize beetroot’s with the amount of effort that he was putting in. We were stacking them into a rick just in front of the baler; this was made into steps to help us in our mission. I was trying to drag them into position but was having a job, as they were just too big.

Fred arrived after milking the cows, “thank God you’ve turned up,” Ray said. “With them two up there firing the crop through, and him down here pulling them bales out, it looked as if me and the kid would soon be up a gum tree”.

I said is there one of them round here then.

Fred said, “Well Old Hubert’s got several, well that’s what he keeps telling me”.

By twelve thirty the Boys were ready to swing the elevator into position. Pete said he had told the Old Man to bring the food along as soon as he heard the drum stop, but couldn’t see him from up there on the rick.

I said have you got your glasses with you then,

He said, “I don’t need them, I can see as much as I want’s too, and too much at times”.

Can you see how much grain there is, and how many sacks, I said. As Tom and Ken were busily tying the sacks up.

He said, “Well I can see how much the blighter’s are wasting and shall at-err deduct their wages according”.

Ray said, “I thought they paid you to come and play”.

Just then and it must have been sheer bad luck, the sack that Ken had tied split as he lifted it, filling his welly to the brim. “ Are so you be taking that home for yer hens are yer”, Pete said.

Well Old Ken would get flustered at the drop of a hat, so tried to scrape the corn from the ground with an old rusty oil measure that he found in the hedge. A small amount of the corn he was picking up went back into the sack, but most of it was falling through the hole in the bottom of the measure and without Ken knowing, was filling the pocket in his old gabardine raincoat that he always wore. Well Pete spotted this with his eagle eyes, and shouted, “Well blow me Ken if you ent already robbing me enough with the lot you’ve got in yer welly, you be gooing to take a load more in yer pocket”.

Well getting more flustered by the minute, Ken reached into his pocket to remove the corn.

Somehow or another, a small mouse had managed to get into his pocket along with the corn. He couldn’t stand rats and mice at the best of times, but grabbing one in his hand was the last straw! (Never mind the pun), He untied the bag string from around his middle and tore off the raincoat, then proceeded to perform a dance on it, with the corn from his welly flying everywhere. Begger me don’t make it rain Ray said, “ We don’t want to stop up now we have started, and we defiantly don’t want a crop of wheat in the rickyard do we”. Ken had cracked by now, and was still broadcasting wheat from his welly. The dog that had arrived with Hubert had also joined in with the dance, and was tugging on the old raincoat and tossing it into the air. “What’s he doing”? Said Hubert pointing at Ken with his stick. “ He’s practicing one of them dances the Masons do,” said Tom, “ but he forgot to roll up his trouser leg”.

“Is he gooing to be a Mason then”, said Hubert. “Well the nearest he’ll get to being a Mason”, said Pete, “is if he visits the pub up on the top road”.

“You means the Masons Arms,” said Henry, still scratching his head and wiping the tears from his eyes with his hat. “ Has he got the handshake for it as well”, said Colin, blowing his nose into his khaki handkerchief. “Yes he’s trying to practice that with the dog”, said Tom. The dog was fighting with Ken for the ownership of the raincoat.

Ken could not see the funny side of his performance, and instantly went into one of his sulks. “Come on you must see the funny side in what you were doing,” said Ray. But Ken was still not amused, and was trying to put back on the raincoat, with the dog still firmly attached to the coat tails. “I’m going over to check on my hens” he said with his head hung low, and the dog still being towed behind, Ken trying to remove it with the old measure he still had firmly clutched in his hand.

What’s a Mason then I said,

Pete replied, “Are they be a load of funny Beggers, and you don’t want to get mixed up with they”. “They’ve usually got more money than they knows what to do with” said Ray.

So why ent you one of um, I said to Pete, there was deadly silence.

 

Well with more than a filling lunch from the wicker basket, we were keen to get started on the afternoon session. Ken had still not shown his face, so Hubert was going to take his place bagging up until he returned. I thought to me self, there’s know way old Hubert was going to cope, unhooking the sacks when they were full, or tying the tops with his arthritic hands. I asked Pete if I should try tying the sacks for Hubert. He clutched his head and said, “the last time you tried to tie um you forgot to fold the string and when you pulled um tight you weren’t man enough and they all came undone”. I said I had been practising tying some empty ones in the feed room, and they hadn’t come undone. “Well I spose you could try but don’t let him fill um to full”.

The dog arrived back from being towed over to Bush house, and still had a piece of the tartan lining from the rain coat hanging from the corner of it’s mouth. Not a good sign I thought, and it looked as if I would be tying the sacks all afternoon.

We coped for more than an hour, the three of us, but Tom seemed to be doing most of the work, and was unhooking Hubert’s sacks as well as his own. I was doing quite well tying up, but Hubert was filling most of the sacks to full. He couldn’t shut the chute quick enough with his crippled hands. I had started to wish I hadn’t volunteered to tie the sacks up, when Ken arrived back.

He had his glasses perched on the end of his nose, and said he had spent the last half hour sewing the pockets up in his old raincoat. Why?

He had done a blessed good job though, and the stitches were that neat. He had also cut the ends out of an old pair of socks, just enough for his fingers to peep through, and another small hole for his thumb. He pulled these onto his hands and then over the sleeves of the raincoat. He produced an old grey woollen balaclava from inside the top of his trousers and pulled this over his head. His trousers were now outside his wellies and firmly tied down with brown tape.

As he fumbled his way over to the drum to take over from Hubert, Tom caught sight of him from the corner of his eye, and let the sack that he was filling overflow. “Beggar me Ken”, he said, “all you wants is a sword and a shield, along with the rest of your armour, and you could go over and fight in them crusades, where’s your charger tied up outside the gate”. I said to Tom the crusades had finished a long time ago, because Miss Upton had told us so. “Not round here they ent” he said.

The rick had shrunk to only a hint of its former self, and was fast becoming extinct. Colin on top of the drum had changed in colour, and was now four shades off the colour of the soil around us. Ray, Fred, and Henry were living in a little world of their own on the other end of the production line, and were oblivious to what was happening up this end of the ship, so to speak.

Anyway, Pete was just about down to the last coarse of sheaf’s, when removing one on the corner disturbed a nest of rats. Well you have never seen as many in one nest, big, little, and huge, brown, black, and grey. They proceeded to disperse everywhere. Hubert threw his stick at one but missed, the dog shot off after another knocking over the tea jug as it went. Pete dropped his fork and ran over to where his four-ten shotgun had been propped, against the hedge. He stuffed his pockets full of the cartridges, shut the gun, and then proceeded to shoot at any thing that moved,

I ran and jumped on top of the feed trough in corner out of the way. Tom was trying to beat off two particularly nasty specimens with a stick, one up the bottom of his trouser leg. While this disturbance was happening, Ken had somehow managed to climb up onto the top of the drum with Colin, and was peering timidly over the side at the drama below. After a frantic five minutes the situation calmed as the rats dispersed, but Pete was still discharging the old gun at leaves blowing in the breeze. Tom lifted his leg and shook the dead rat from his trouser leg.

So that’s what you as to tie the string round yer legs for then, I see. You learns something every day don’t yer.

The rick finished it was the barley’s turn tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

This is your Field Marshall with that wonderful sound.

 

 

"Harvest Part One".

I've started so i'll finish has the saying goes, well while I have moved these tales from my old computer with some difficulty I might add, I cant believe they changed the format ,I am sure it is just a con to make Bill Gates a few more bob.

 

 

This is a Oxfordshire Bow Wagon like the one I nearly destroyed in the story,

 

It did get repaired and ended up being used as a cattle trough in the middle of a field with its

 

wheels taken off.Oxfordshire wagons were always painted Red and Yellow. other counties had there own colour scheme.

 

 

By mid to late July. The winter barley, some of the winter, wheat and oats were ready to harvest. Hiron’s of Bloxham used to carry out the binding.

So off we went, down to Bloxham to see when they could “make a start”. The only person at the cottage when we got there was George’s wife. “Old Ma Hiron’s” as Pete called her.(I think her name was Connie)

She was a frail little old lady ,that always wore a grubby flower patterned overall and always a green beret pulled down to her ears. Peter asked if George was about. She peered at him over the tops of her glasses. “Oh it’s you Peter” she said “I haven’t seen you for some time”, sweeping the hen droppings from her door step.

“No” she said “George and Henry are along at Barford at the Woolgroves cutting their winter wheat.

They’ve never been as busy as they are at the moment, but I dare say they may be able fit you in” she said knocking the old rooster out of the way with the broom stale.

“Well we’ve got a bit nearly ready” Pete said chuckling and rubbing his hands together in his usual manner, “and wondered when they could make a start”.

She said she would be sure to send one of them along that evening to have a look at the crop and see if it was ready to harvest.

By the time we had got back to the farm it had started to spit with rain.

Well it was six days later, and after a spell of bad weather, when Henry, Georges son arrived down at the farm, at about six’ish. He was driving their old ex Navy flat fronted Fordson lorry and had their black and white border collie perched up high on the passenger seat.

We all went along to the fields to inspect the crops.

After pulling some, smelling some, and eating some, they decided between them to start on the barley as soon as the sun had dried it out in the morning.

This meant dinner time, to the Hiron’s but it was actually three o’clock, when we heard the sound of the old Field Marshall of theirs chugging down the South Newington hill.

 

I was gone! Out through the top gate in the orchard and along the road as fast as I could run, to open the gate into the barley field before they reached it.

I waved him in; it was “Old George” a large man! He grinned as he tried to get the old tractor into bottom gear, to go through the gateway, the clutch was screaming, as they did on a Field Marshall, his belly was going up and down in time with the beat of the engine.

George was wearing his old grey suit, with waistcoat and red braces, his watch chain was dangling from its pocket and his striped white shirt without its collar.

His old oily flat cap was perched on one side of his head, and the pockets in his jacket stuffed full of binder twine.

Eventually he managed to get through the gateway; he climbed down from the seat of the tractor on which was placed a huge flower patterned cushion.

Hollo boy he said “we’ve had a bit of trouble with the “calendar” the patches the missus had sown on had come off. Bad luck! I thought, “And so we had to goo and buy a new un”. (This was the canvas that carried the crop into the binder).

He pulled the pin in the drawbar of the binder, and choked it so as to remove the road wheels. Once this was done, the drawbar had to be pulled over.

Then the balls of twine threaded, (the farmer used to supply these) George found these under the hedge where Pete had left them. Red Star, as I recall.

Then it had to be greased up and checked all over. I could never understand why this was not done back at their yard before they arrived. But I expect it had been picked up from under the last hedge that it had been parked.

By this time Cyril had arrived on his bike from Bloxham to ride the binder, he was out of breath as he had only just finished his shift on the railway, and was still wearing his uniform including the cap.

This had taken well over an hour and by this time the sun was starting to sink “over Will’s mothers”, as the saying goes.

Time only then to cut out the hadland (head-land) and run a couple of times up the middle, before the dew comes down, George said. “Then I can make an early start in the morning”. George didn’t know what early meant. By the time he’d eaten his full English breakfast with all the trimmings, (including freshly seared pigs liver) it was going to be nearer noon.

Anyway they managed to do what they set out too, although it was slow.

And Pete who had now arrived, and me we went behind and stalked the sheaves, that lay on the ground.

George sheeted up the binder and Cyril said he would see us tomorrow after work, as he left on his bike.

By this time Henry had arrived to pick George up. He was like a miniature version of George and dressed in the same manner. See you tomorrow they said, there might be just time for a pint before they close.

It was only eight thirty so they would have time for more than one pint, which was not a good sign. I thought. Pete clutched his head and gazed skyward.

The next morning was quite cloudy and so the sun took some time to dry out the dew.

This was a good job, for come eleven thirty there was still no sign of George or Henry or anyone else for that matter.

Peter was getting one of his headaches coming on, as they always did, as things started to go wrong or not to plan. The cigarettes had once again taken one hell of a bashing, and he was staring into the bottom of an empty packet.

“Nip round to Steven’s and get me some more fags” he said,” And keep your eyes open for the Hirons’s on the way”. I had this feeling that the day was not going to go well.

By the time I had got back round from the Post Office, Ray had returned again from along at the harvest field where he had been patiently awaiting the arrival of one of the team.

He said he had un-sheeted the binder and tractor and greased it up twice, but there was no way he was going to try and start the “Old Field Marshall”.

Noon came and went, every one was stood twiddling their fingers and even Ray’s roll-up tin had taken a bashing, and the yard paths had never looked so clean.

Peter said he would have to go to Bloxham and try to find out what was the hold up.

Ray said he would go and re stook the sheaves already standing as there was nothing else to do. I said I would go with him and try and pull out a few of the wild oats and poppies.

“Don’t you go trampling the crop Pete said “cause it don’t look as if we be going to cut it anyway”. Well it won’t hurt trampling a bit then I thought, will it.

About one-ish Peter arrived in the pickup closely followed by Henry in his old truck.

He did look flustered, and could not get the old tractor started quickly enough.

It was not very often he used a cartridge to start it, but was not prepared to spend the time to try and swing the old “beast”.

Pete said Ray would have to ride the binder in the absence of George? Or until Cyril arrived, anyway. Where was the “Old goat”?

Henry had told Pete that he had not arrived home until one o’clock, and the “Old Blighter” was “As boozed as a “Brock Badger” on cowslips”. He was still in bed and snoring like the same.

Ray climbed aboard the hot seat and Henry set off at speed with the old tractor clutch screaming over time, and nearly depositing Ray onto the floor before they had started.

After about six bouts up and down, Henry had calmed down a bit. The sheaves were popping out faster than buns from baker Hudson’s oven, and the rabbits and hare’s were already running for cover.

Within an hour and a half the field was littered with sheaves, this was one hell of a good crop for barley Peter had decided to use a different variety this year with shorter straw and more head.

Well I think it was Richard Parffit’s father that had chosen it, he worked for Clarks in Banbury, and Peter had only last year started to deal with this firm after being pestered for six months by the salesmen. It looked as if they had come good, but I doubt if Pete would be satisfied with the crop because he never was. It looked like a hard two or three days to collect this lot up, and was going to take us best part of three hours to stook it.

Cyril arrived and took over from Ray. Who said he was bloody glad of five minutes rest, after riding with him in that sort of mood. Pointing at Henry, with his tobacco tin. Cyril was still trying to tie a large khaki handkerchief round his mouth as they passed by. The recent bad weather had made the crop really dusty as it had dried out.

Fred arrived.

Part two later.

The next morning at about eleven Henry and Cyril arrived down in the farm yard to collect the twine for the day, where was George?

Henry said” he was a bit middling this morning, and thought that he had a touch of his angina; he didn’t get in till late last night he said, and that didn’t help.

Anyway, he said he would try to get there before two and take over riding the binder from Cyril, who had got to go and do his shift on the railway; he was already wearing his uniform except for the peaked cap.

By the time the pair had un- sheeted the tractor and binder threaded the twine, and fired the old Marshall up with a cartridge, it was gone twelve and even the rabbits had gone off back to their boroughs to rest after a long mornings grassing.

The bright sun however had dried off the morning dew, and the ears of barley were rustling in the breeze and just asking to be harvested.

The old tractors note changed from a muted choke to a loud and increasing chug, as they set of for the first cut of the day.

Henry was already readjusting the sails that had taken George age’s to get right yesterday. Cyril had tied a large khaki handkerchief around his mouth to stop the dust. The sheaf’s were popping out from the binder just like the piglets had popped out of the old saddle back sow the day before, all twenty of them.--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Fred arrived, so we started to stook the first few sheaves. I did not!! Like touching barley as the ales used to get every were they shouldn’t, and even gave me a rash on me arms although I had tied the wrist’s of me coat down with twine. Fred said you get’s used to it over the years, and when I was as old as him I would take no notice! There were a few thistles in the crop too, and they didn’t help. The poppies reminded me of what my old gramp had said to me last November, as he went off too the Armistice Day parade in town with all his medals swinging and a bright red poppy in his lapel. He said, pointing at his poppy with his nicotine stained old fingers” This is to remind us of the blood we had to spill to give you a life, I hope you don’t have to do the same”. So do I, I replied.

Anyway, Hubert by this time had staggered along from the farm with his wicker basket and enamel jug full of tea, he placed them down under the hedge and preceded to wave his walking stick to gain our attention, the “Old Fool” nearly fell over in the process.

Henry and Cyril did not! Want to stop as every thing was running smoothly at the time, and you can guarantee if you take a break, so will the machinery the minute you start it back up.

Henry wanted to get as much done as possible before Cyril left upon the arrival the “Old Man”. Because George was bound to find some thing wrong with what Henry was doing, as he all-us did.

Fred and I each had a cup of tea and one of the cheese doorstop sandwich’s with some of the old mans famous pickles. (I will give you the recipe for these later). He asked Fred what sort of crop it was, Fred said it were “fair to middling, and there should be a good amount of straw for fodder, and litter when it were threshed.

 

Pete arrived on the “David” (David Brown Cropmaster) at full speed, with his shotgun pointing skyward lodged on the passenger seat, and a half smoked Senior Service in the corner of his mouth. “How’s it gooing” he said, as he jumped down from the tractor.

Hubert said he thought there was to much green stuff round the hadland, and it should be left and ploughed back in, pointing it out with his stick... “Cut it and cart it for the cows” Fred suggested “it ull make good fodder”.

“We’ull see what the weather’s like tomorrow” Pete said. “If its fine enough and lifts the dew early, we may as well cart the lot and get it stuck into a rick”.

They decided between them that when we had finished stooking the sheaves that were lying neatly in rows, we would go and set a base for the rick, out with some of last years straw.

Henry was down to about seven full bouts when George arrived in the other old ex Navy Ford lorry, just in time to take over from Cyril who had been looking anxiously at the gateway for sometime.

It looked as if George was feeling better and must have fed himself, as most of the egg yolk was down the front of his tie.

Henry cut the throttle on the old Marshall; Cyril jumped off the binder, and made a dash towards the gateway and Henry’s old truck.

Henry and George shouted a few words to each other and made a few hand gestures, Meaning come on let’s get on with it.

George swung aboard the binder hot seat, with his big blue suit pocket’s one either side both stuffed full with twine swinging in the breeze.

With a squeal of the clutch and an increasing note from the engine, they set off to finish the last of the standing crop. This was now swaying gently in the warm afternoon breeze.

Peter in the meantime had been to fetch his gun from the seat of the tractor, just in case any more rabbits ran out. Maybe we would get one for tea. Hubert had already thrown his stick at one and frightened the poor thing to death. A hare had bolted from one of the stooks where Fred was standing lighting his roll up, startling him and making him drop his matches, burning his hand in the process.

He said the best place for it was in a jug.

Henry had got about twice more up and down the field, when a couple more rabbits ran out. Peter gave them both barrels and missed the two of them; he was always late on the trigger as usual. But the loud rapport from the gun had jolted George back into life as he was just beginning to “nod off” on the binder seat with his head swaying from side to side.

At about four thirty the barley was cut and stooked, they had decided to cut and tie the headland swarf after all, but had left it on its own to dry out before deciding whether to put it on top of the rick or not.

 

Fred went off to milk the cows, still rubbing his hand where he had burnt it. And Hubert said he was going as well to get the tea. George and Henry were deciding whether to cut out the headland of the winter wheat or start on the oats.

This had a fair bit of green still in it, and would probably benefit with another days warm sun on it.

Peter said he would leave it to them which crop they cut first as long as both were tied up. He said “trouble is you has a nasty habit of disappearing for days on end, and not coming back”.

Henry swore they wouldn’t do that, but George didn’t have a lot to say for himself, and coughed and spluttered into his boots making out he was not listening to the conversation.

He was always the biggest culprit you see.

Anyway, me and Pete went and “laid down” the bed for the new rick and managed to get it done before the sun set over Wigginton Heath. He said he hoped it udd be fine tomorrow looking up into the sky, so as we could get it into the rick, before the grains fell out.

Come nine o’clock the next morning, the old Standard Fordson had been fuelled up and hitched to the old Oxfordshire hay wagon. This had been fitted with its new triangular steel drawbar, that Tibbet’s the blacksmith from Barford had made. The “David” was hitched to the new red painted rubber tyre'd trailer, Peter had bought from Mawles. He said the axle under it was out of an old Ford truck.

He and Fred were trying to fit the back extension and the raves when I got down to the farm after eating my breakfast. They weren’t having a lot of success, neither one of them knew where the bits fitted, Fred was getting the blame. Of course I was instantly in the way when I tried to help, and suggest where the parts fitted.

Well, they eventually did get it fitted, with much head scratching bad language and clasped brows.

Peter set off along the road to the field with the “David” and the new trailer, with the sun gleaming and glinting on the new paint work.

He said I could take the “Standard”(Fordson) and hay wagon the field way, as long as Fred got it out of the Yard for me first.

Fred said, in the absence of Ray who was off sick with a bad back from riding the binder, Tom Powell and his son were coming to give us a hand later, and young Colin Stockford would get there after dinner.

As it happened Hubert had just stuck his nose round the corner, to ask                  how many people there were going to be, as he needed to know how much lunch to prepare.

Fred mumbled into his boots, “five or six, or there could be seven if old Ray Stanbra comes along later. But he would have probably have already been fed and watered”.

After a bit of shunting and crunching of the gears, Fred managed to get the old Standard and hay wagon out of the yard for me. I chuntered it through the middle field’s along the cart track that divided them. And then drove into the end ten acres by the water meadows. I could see the cows were grassing peacefully in a sea of yellow in the morning sun. Peter was marching round the field checking first one stook and then another. He reckoned that it would be dry enough by mid day to “make a start”.

 

As we walked back along the road he said that we must find out all the pitch forks that we could, as Fred tends to lose or break some during the winter and never tells any one.

I reckoned that there were only six the last time I had counted them, but not counting the three pronged ones. “Are they be to clumsy now”, Peter said, “and the stales be to long”.

Can I make a short one up out of the fork head that is laid under the tractor shed bench I said? “What do you want a fork for” he said, “you ent man enough yet to throw um up”. Yes but I could help stack, I said. “Well if you wants to bother boy”, he said, “I think there’s an old broken stale up in the rick yard by yer house, it should be long enough for you. There’s some six inch nails in me tool box but mind your fingers”. (You had to use six inch nails cut off for rivets you see).

“I’m popping down to River’s to get some petrol for the elevator engine , and I’ll call over the road while I’m down there and knock them lazy beggers up”. (Meaning George and Henry).

I shaped the broken stale for me fork with Pete’s old spoke shave, and finished it off with the foot rasp until it fitted the fork head with a couple of swift swipes with the hammer. I found the hand drill where we had left it, up in the tin shed in the rick yard. I had remembered we had used it on the mower sections; it was still covered with grease and got my hands plastered. Luckily the drill bit was still alright. I wiped the drill off with an old sack and managed to drill through the two holes in to the stale. The six inch nails were where Pete said, in his toolbox, I knocked um through the holes and cut them off with the hacksaw, although the blade was rusty and blunt. With the hammer I managed to do a good job riveting them over, smoothing them off with the rasp and putting a shine on the stale with the greasy sack.

Fred popped his head round the corner and said was I ready as he was going to walk along to the field. I said just a minute I’m just going to get the rust from the prongs of me new fork. He said “don’t bother doing that because the straw ull soon clean it up or the soil you’ll dig up while trying to stick um”. “Anyway all I can find is me muck fork”.

I told him Pete had put the forks we had found into the back of the pickup.

We walked along the road both with our forks over our shoulders, Fred’s muck fork still had a nasty smell and had caked on straw still stuck to it. I daren’t ask why he had brought it, but I think it was a habit to walk about with something over your shoulder if only a stick. He had some strips of old sacking hanging from his pocket, I asked him what that was for, he said to bind round the bottoms off his trousers to stop the stubble sticking in his ankles and through the holes in his boots by the laces.

He said “last year I had an old pair of wellies that were cut off just above the sole, and then put them on before me boots they did the same job”, but he had lost them over the winter.

He said he thought he remembered Hubert throwing them at a cat or something. Just then we spotted Tom and his son John walking down “Wiggy Field” it looked as if he had brought his own fork and he was wearing his bright brown spats. John had on his grey smock and black beret, and he did not look well but he never did.

 

Pete arrived back from the garage with the petrol for the old Lister engine, he said he had knocked the Hirons’s up and they would be on there way after their breakfast. He said “goo and get some water from the tank (drinking trough) boy, to top up the engine. There’s an old bucket round the corner of the hay rick the one we used to damp the straw when we thatched it”. After a slight reluctance to start the old Lister chugged into life. We let it run for ten minutes to make sure she was alright before stopping her and fitting the flat belt.

We ran it another five minutes to make sure the elevator still worked alright, as it had not been touched since hay making, and you remember what trouble we had with it then.

She seemed OK, so we stopped her as we wouldn’t need the elevator until we had got the rick up six foot.

Pete said we had better make a start and get a couple of wagon load’s in before Hubert arrived with the lunch. You can shift the tractor from one stook to another Pete said to me “as long as you goo bloody steady”.

“Fred’s gooing to stack this first un and he wunt be amused if you has him off, will yer Fred”.

He muttered some thing and I shouted back to him that I’d do my best not to have im off. “Well goo on then” he said dropping his soggy roll up from his mouth.

Pete, Tom, and John soon threw up three parts of a load onto the old hay wagon; she had a dodgy back wheel so I could do nothing else but “goo steady”.

I lost sight of Fred for the topping out of the load so had to shout loudly “Hold Tight” every time I let my foot from the Old Standard’s clutch pedal.

We finished the load and Fred slid over the back rave to the ground. Pete said leave her there ticking over while we load’s the “David”.

This was going to be interesting the first load on the new trailer, Pete said he was going to stack, “and keep that boy off the tractor”.

I said I could move the David steady now I’d grown a bit, and I could reach the pedals just.

“Not with me on the bloody top you ent he said,” and I thought he trusted me. Tom was going to move the tractor then, well he had only driven a Standard Fordson before, and was more used to working with heavy horses at Gibbs’s at Milcombe than he was driving tractors.

So the first thing I had to do was show him where the gears were, he could not get used to the clutch where it was. Told you I should have moved it.

By the time Pete had stacked half a load on the front rave, he had to lye flat on top of the load every time Tom moved it for fear of being fired over the back. But once Pete had made a decision he stuck to it, and always called Hubert stubborn.

Anyway they threw enough up to level the load to the top of the raves.

By this time Peter ud-had enough and said he thought that ud do, he was coming down.

I said to him that it was only half a load. He said “well we ull see how much you can load on the next un then” told you I should have driven.

Pete drove the “David” up to the side of the rick base and I was allowed to drive the “Standard” slowly up to the middle gate way.

Hubert had brought the food for lunch, and had a row of enamel mugs lined up on an old plank of wood and was trying to pour out the tea without spilling it, but was having a job to hold the jug with both his hands because of his arthritis, I said I would do it, he said no he could manage.

But I could cut some slices of egg and onion tart, and some chunk s of cold apple and rhubarb pie. (Recipes later).

Pete said he hoped the rhubarb didn’t start to work until the end of the day.

 

Tom and Fred were tucking in to the new bread and cheese and were piling on the gooseberry and ginger chutney.

Old Hubert was a dab hand at making pastry, and even better at the pickles and chutney.

Colin arrived just as we had finished eating, and managed to force down the last piece of Stilton, and a slice of the red onion, beetroot and apple flan,

But had to do with some of the “Old Mans” ginger beer to wash it down with, as the tea was all gone.

Well a lot of it had been used to wash down the plank of wood hadn’t it?

Right then, lets get this rick built, Pete said “or it ull be night and we shall end up building in the damp” (dew).

Colin climbed aloft and threw the sheaves from the trailer right into the wrong place for Fred and Tom, they wanted to build the edge of the rick, but Colin was knocking them back into the centre.

Colin was like this “a ten minute wonder”; he would work like a dynamo for this time and then start to flag quickly.

Anyway, the sheaves came off at speed and at least, Fred and Tom could sort the rick out while the others picked up another load.

Pete drew the Old Standard’s load along side the rick, and John said he would throw this load off while we fetched another.

Colin was already wiping his brow as we left for the third load.

You can stack then Pete said to me. OK then I said but don’t throw them up to quick.

Thinking about it, with Colin flagging even faster, and Peter moving at his normal pace I would probably have time to view the wild life in between stacking.

This new trailer was a doddle to stack anyway, even for me. With no sides like a hay wagon it was far easier to stack.

We eventually got a load on, with several pauses for thought in between.

Peter could never concentrate on what he was doing, and always wanted to know what every body else was up to.

And were they earning or doing more than him?

I think “Billy Nelder” said he was just a nosey old sod.

 

By the time we had got back to the rick with this load. The Fordson had been moved out ready for us to fetch the next.

The rick was looking good, with the sun shining full onto it making it look more golden than normal.

The old elevator had been pulled into place, and was chugging away to its self with the tines scraping and squeaking as they past over the rusty bed.

Tom was out with his oil can, and oiling the sprockets as they went round, he just liked his machinery to run sweetly.

We set off and loaded the old wagon again.

By the time I had stacked it to the top of the raves, Colin was having a job to get the sheaves up to me. He was puffing and slobbering, just like a bulldog that had run a four minuet mile.

And Pete was not much better; he had smoked his last cigarette and was grizzling like a child that had lost its dummy. “I hope they ull be ready for this load as I hate’s standing about”, “Besides it ull be night before we looks round, and I wants to get this lot into the rick today”.

I could see from the top of the load, that it would be the others waiting for us. And could just here im moaning because they were stood about when we reached the rick.

Anyway, I said I thought that it was a load, and was more than he’d put on. “Don’t be bloody cheeky” Pete said “or I'll make yer stop up there till we gett’s to the rick”.

I slid down over the back rave, and asked if I could drive the “Old Gal” up to the rick yard. “Well by the look of this back wheel you- ull have to goo steady” he said rattling the loose spokes.

“I told Fred to give them a soke when she was stood under the “wagon arch”. Go on blame someone else I thought, anyway I had seen Fred watering um without a watering can quite regularly, if you see what I mean, perhaps this is what had rotted the spokes and made them loose.

I jumped on to the Old Standard’s iron seat and began to drive back up the field towards the rick. I was gooing steady and trying to watch the wonky wheel at the same time.

Of course Pete and Colin were taking no notice at all and were gaily walking back with their forks over their shoulders, and obviously pulling apart some innocent party, or making some story up between themselves as they often did. The old wagon had started to make some strange groaning noises, and was having a job to keep a straight course.

I had managed to get through the middle gate way! Just.

When she cried enough, and with the wheel collapsing, shedding most of the sheaves on to the ground.

I Hola’d to Pete and Colin, but they were taking no notice of anyone or thing.

It was not until they got back to the rick that they learnt of my dilemma, from Fred and the Powell’s who had seen the demise of the “Old Oxfordshire Wagon”.

Of course it was my fault, “I told you to goo Bloody Steady”, Pete yelled “now look what you’ve done” clutching his head as normal in a crisis.

“We’ll just have to use one trailer” Fred muttered.

“Or I could fetch ours” Tom said.

But that was too easy for Pete who had to make every thing complicated.

Colin’s idea was not worth mentioning? A lump of wood for a skid? Well I ask you! He’d been watching too many westerns on his new Pye television. The answer was to goo and collects the old Ford lorry from cousin Toms, the one with the vee-eight petrol engine and look out turret in the roof,

 

Well, I know that this hadn’t been started for two years, and had been sat for this period of time in the old Nissan hut at the top of South Newington hill.

This also still had a pile of rotting potatoes in front of it, and had two tyres that were flat as well. But this would be no trouble would it. I thought we needed to get this rick finished today?

Pete shot off, in his “more haste less speed” mode, to find “Cousin Tom”.

Well, we had loaded and stacked three big trailer loads by the time he arrived back, with a “hang dog” expression on his face.

“No that don’t seem like a good idea now, he said “and anyway there’s a robins nest with young in it under the bonnet”. I bet, I thought at this time of the year?

“Anyway we only need's another four good loads to finish the rick” Fred stuttered, “And I shall at to go and milk the cows in a bit”. Looking at the sun starting to recede over the Wigginton hills.

“You can come up and top out the rick for me” he said to Pete.

Tom said that he and John would help to throw up another couple of loads before they went off for their tea. As mother didn’t like it left on the table. Which meant me and Colin would have to fetch the last two loads? And he was already knackered.

After a long and drawn out effort, Colin managed to throw or in the case of the last few sheaves push up three parts of a load, when he said that it was enough. This pleased me as it was not so far to slide down from the top.

He said he would drive it back to the rick as he couldn’t walk because his feet were so bad.

When we got to the rick Pete was perched on the top like an owl and doing his cod fish impression whilst sucking on a length of straw.

And peering to see how the Hiron’s were getting on binding the wheat.

“If you had left me a ladder” he said “I could have come down and had a fag the time you’ve took”.

Well you’ll have to come and help fetch the last load or we’ll be here all night I said.

As I spoke, with a cheery wave and a chuckling “Hi up Then” “Old Ray Stanbra me uncle” arrived on his bike.

“You’re a bit late ent yer” Pete said, “the party’s nearly over and all the jelly’s gone”. “Are I can’t stomach that stuff at the best of times”, Ray said.

“Well it’s a good job you have come” Pete said, “cause one of these is knackered,(Colin) and the other is getting on my bloody nerves, and just look what he’s done to me wagon”, pointing across the field to where the old wagon was resting.

It weren’t my fault, I said starting to feel guilty.

“Well that wunt put it right will it me boy” Ray said.

“Best we get this rick finished, and then we can have a look at the “Old Girl” later.

Perhaps “Old Clary” (Clarence Ell) can make some new spokes and put her right” he said.

“Are I reckon the “Old Gals” had her day” Pete said “and just when I’ve paid for a new drawbar?

This must be the way to goo”, he said proudly pointing at the new trailer.

“Are it’s a shame to let the “Old Girl” die, there must still be a use for her yet” Ray said.

“Yes on the back of our fire”, Pete said chuckling.

Anyway let’s get this finished he said, throwing the last sheaf to Colin, from the elevator.

He looked drawn and was now having a job to stand up and had gone as silent as a church mouse his face had turned a nasty shade of pale. It was as if all his energy had suddenly drained through a hole in his wellies.

Told you he would burn his self out in the first ten minutes.

Anyway he blamed it on Hubert’s food, but I don’t think he had eaten any of the rhubarb flan.

But it defiantly sent him scurrying behind the hedge as fast has his feet could carry him. Pete shouted to him that it was no excuse, not to help throw the last load up.

But all that came from behind the hedge was a groan.

“We’re gooing down to pick the last few up anyway” Pete shouted.

Ray had already gone along in front and was inspecting the “Old Wagon” where she lay this side of the gate way.

We would call and pick the sheaves up from her on the way back, Pete suggested.

They had thrown most of what was left in stooks; up to me by the time Colin had crept down the field to meet us. Ray said what he wanted was a good dose of syrup of figs. that ud really sort him out.

Colin was not amused but had skived his way out of throwing up these last few. But had forgotten about the load that had fallen from the “Old Wagon”.

This made him turn an even greener shade of pale.

“Do we have to pick them up, I reckon there’s enough on the trailer now to finish off the rick” he said whingeing.

Pete said “what were we supposed to do with them then leave um to rot”. Well you could use um to thatch the “Old Wagon” I said then could leave her were she lies.

“I’ve just about had enough of you to day” Pete said “thank God its school for you tomorrow, that ull give us all a bit of peace”.

Ray said “I thought he were the only one who done the work round here, that’s what he tells his aunt Hilda”.

The old elevator was cranked up for the final few sheaves, and Pete topped out the rick. Colin said he was going home to die, but would see us on Friday!

Ray said he had just got time to nip up to Wiggy and have a word with “Clary” about the wheel, he said he reckoned Willie Wyatt could probably be able to mend it.

Me and Pete rode back on the “David”. The Hiron’s were just leaving as well, and had finished the wheat. Pete and Fred would have to stook them tomorrow I just had time to clean my school shoes before it was time for bed. I was at school for the rest of the late harvest and was amassed that they had managed to get the rest into ricks without my help?

 

Pheww.