All you city kids hang on and listen carefully while I explain: First we took the tractor, hitched the hay wagon on and went to the field where the hay loader sat. This was a machine that grabbed the hay, which had been bunched into rows earlier and lifted it up with a series of prongs to the top of the loader which met the top of the wagon. As I drove the tractor, my dad was on the hay wagon grabbing the oncoming hay with a pitchfork and loading the wagon evenly as the hay came on board.
After the wagon was full, we took it to the barn and pulled it in front. The tractor was then driven around the the back and a large rope that ran all the way through the barn was attached to the back of the tractor. The rope went through pulleys and up into the hay loft, where it was attached to giant forks. These forks were lowered to the wagon where Daddy set them in the hay, pushing them down with his feet in order to get a good amount of hay in the forks.
He, or I, or one of my sisters would then go to the tractor at the back of the barn, SLOWLY drive it forward, pulling the rope through the pulleys which ran through the barn which pulled the hay up and in. Most of the time, instead of driving the tractor, I was in the mid-loft, where I could watch the forks come in. I'd watch and wait, listening to the creaking rope, feeling the anticipation. The forks of hay would get to the window at the top of the barn and all the light from the outside would be cut off. Then the sunlight reappeared as the load moved slowly back in to the hayloft.
It was my job to call out to the tractor driver to stop when the forks got in the right place. (I had to make sure the hay would be evenly distributed.) When I yelled, the big load of hay would jerk to a stop, swinging high above. My dad would then go to the front of the barn, and pull a rope attached to the forks tripping a mechanism on the forks that caused them to open up, dropping the load.
It was really a tremendous feast for all the senses: It was just me up there watching that big load of hay swinging, suspended in mid air. Then the sound of the hay dropping, and the forks chiming in, clanking together, the strong smell of the hay, the sight of the great lump of hay dropping, rolling, tiny bits of hay dancing in the air all about my head. It was a farm girl's ticker tape parade.
After that, my dad would pull in sharp, hard jerks to get the forks to come to the top of the window of the barn and then the forks would come crashing down with the help of gravity, my dad attempting to guide their descent on to the wagon of hay. I still remember how we were NOT to step foot out the front of the barn until we heard those forks come down lest we get hit by them. When they did come down, it was time to start the process all over again.
In the bottom right of this picture, you can see my dad driving the tractor which is connected to the rope pulling the hay. I am in the mid-loft waiting to yell out when to stop. Oh wait. No I'm not. I'm taking this picture. Hopefully there was a sister there doing that job!