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Kayli, 11, and Tynan Granberg,14, are proud of a job well done on their small ranch outside Lakeview, Ore.

Haying Time
One pickup load at a time. By Cynthia Vaughan Granberg

The haybales stretch out across the field, rectangular, linear, the assembly line of ranch life. The methodology of haying seems to go against my nature; though I recognize its importance, I resent its control over the length and content of our days. During midsummer in this country, ranch life centers around the cutting, raking, curing, baling, loading and stacking hay. Hay that is vital to the survival of the cattle and horses through the long barren winter months, and provides necessary cash flow to the ranch itself.

This morning my 14-year-old son and I are the hay crew; we are a small outfit and we bring our hay in one pickup load at a time. I drive down the rows and my son picks up the hundred-pound bales, lifting and stacking them on the bed, tapping on the side of the truck three times with his hay hook to let me know to move on. Twenty-eight bales to the load, and then up to the pole barn where together we fit the bales into our expanding Chinese puzzle of a haystack. I cannot lift the bales as he does, they are too heavy, I grab them with a hook and roll them end-over-end to shove them into place.

My husband resents the fact that I don’t take the pleasure in this work that he does. He seems to revel in the purity of it, the necessity of it. I recognize its importance, but I find it tedious. What I do take pleasure in is my son. Watching him work, working along with him, I marvel at this young man who is my own.

I take pleasure in the lengthening and strengthening of his limbs, the deepening of his voice, the scattering of hairs sprouting from his chin. There is a new strength into his body accompanying the strength of his spirit that has always been there. His body has grown leaner and harder, but he still shows a softness of heart, pausing in his lifting and stacking to show me a beautiful moth, before freeing it from one of the bales.
If he resents this work, he does not show it. He is connected to this place, this work, this way of life. I am glad his father and I have been able to provide this grounding for him. From this foundation of hay, and cattle, and sweat, and dirt, and laughter, I watch him survey the horizon of his future. It is a distant horizon, but I see him moving toward it with confidence and resolve.

“This is our harvest,” I say to myself, “and it is a good one.”

Cynthia Vaughan Granberg teaches grades 5-8 in Bly, Ore. During her “free” time, she works on the small ranch in south-central Oregon that she and her husband Richard own.

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