A FEW HIRED HAND TALES
By Steve Moreland, August 13, 2017
When Mom and Dad were first married, Bob had a hired hand from the state of Maine. The guy was Italian, and bragged himself up to be quite a spaghetti maker. Bob took him at his word, and invited the whole neighborhood to come for a spaghetti feed. Amazingly enough, the spaghetti making hired hand got sick the afternoon before the big doings, and it was too late to call off the company. Elaine came through with flying colors and figured out how to make spaghetti to feed all the guests that night. The hired hand did have one redeeming quality. While he worked on the Green Valley, Bob and he ran a two-man cross-cut saw, and felled quite a bunch of old dead Cottonwood trees.
A year or two before I was born, Dad sent a man with a two-horse hay sweep down to the east side of the Home Meadow to bunch together some windrows of hay. The time was right after breakfast, and Dad and the rest of the hired help had sickles to sharpen and other chores to do before they left for the hay field. As Dad worked on the sickles, he glanced occasionally down the meadow to watch the progress of the man and team as they headed for their destination over a mile away. Dad said it took quite a while for the horses to amble down the valley, as the man was not pushing them any. Just about the time when they got to the windrowed hay and should have started pushing sweep bunches together, the outfit turned back for the house. Dad jumped in the pickup and drove down to see what the problem was. The man answered, “I have to go to the bathroom.” Dad quickly assured him that the whole meadow was available, and that he sure didn’t need to drive the team clear back to the house just to use the outdoor privy.
Grandpa ran onto a man looking for a job in Merriman one day. He hired him on the spot to stack hay, and gave an advance in wages to buy a few necessary items, including a new pair of gloves. The first day on the job, the new man lost one of his gloves. He asked if any of the others had seen it, and they hadn’t. The day progressed, and another couple stacks were put up. Stan was scatter raking around an earlier stack, and looked down to see the glove. He picked it up and took it back to the new hired hand. The guy said, “Well, it won’t do me much good now. I threw the other glove into the middle of the last haystack, thinking one glove wouldn’t be of much use.” Stan kept the glove he had found, and made sure to feed that particular stack first thing the next winter. Pitching hay carefully, he found the glove and ended up with a perfectly matched pair.
Mom had breakfast ready one morning, and she and Dad were sitting at the table waiting for the hired man to arrive. Dad thought the guy looked kind of funny when he walked by the dining room window. Sure enough, when the gentleman came through the door, his mouth was wide open in a gaping yawning stance and stuck in that position. Since he couldn’t talk, he wrote a note explaining that as he woke up, he stretched and yawned too hard, and his mouth had locked wide open. Dad took him to the doctor in Gordon, 38 miles away.
One guy hired to run the pitchfork and stack hay, on his first day of work, was unhooking the stacker cage arms. Dad had cautioned him to always stand off to the side when the arms came loose, as the pressure of all the hay made them spring free with a lot of gusto. The man didn’t heed the warning, and the wooden arm broke his nose. This required a trip to the Gordon Hospital emergency room.
Emil Last Horse helped Dad calve out cows one spring. He went to town on a Saturday night, and his wife and another guy brought him back to the ranch late Sunday night. They were all three quite inebriated when they arrived, and Dad had Mom put the coffee pot on and invited them in to sober up. I was only four or five years old, but got up to experience the excitement of having company. I sat by Mom on a chair. Emil was sitting across the table, next to the wall. He and I were pretty good buddies. He said, “Steve, come over here.” I went and put my hand on his knee. He pulled a jackknife out of his pocket, and told me, “I’m going to cut off your thumb.” I made a beeline back to the other side of the table declaring, “No, you’re not!” Dad knew that none of them were in any shape to drive away from the ranch, so told them to sleep it off in the bunkhouse. The next morning, they were all still in pretty bad shape. Dad told the other guy and the lady that they could head on back to town. Then he advised Emil to sleep until noon, and he could go to work after dinner. Emil said, “If I don’t have to work this morning, I will just ride back with the others. I have some shopping I need to do in Pine Ridge.” He packed his other belongings, and that was the last we ever saw of Emil.
A pretty nice guy by the name of Ray Lambert worked for us when I was ten or eleven. I used to go down to the barn after arriving home from school to help the men finish chores. Ray had milked the cow, and he and I were heading for the house to supper. He was impressing his young easily-impressed audience (me) by twirling the milk bucket over his head. This was done fast enough that the centrifugal force held the two-thirds of a bucket of milk firmly in place. I was amazed that it didn’t spill out even though it was “upside down.” At least I was until he walked under a tree branch, which stopped the momentum, and the milk spilled all over the poor guy. I thought it was pretty funny, and we sure didn’t have to crank the milk separator that night.
This same guy, Ray, a few nights later had just finished milking the Holstein cow. He was going to show me how to “buck out” the milk cow. He jumped aboard, and my job was to let the cow out of the stanchion. I did, and the cow barreled around the inside of the barn trying to dump her rider. This was accomplished in short order, and Ray hit the side of the barn with a crashing wallop! I could tell he was hurt, and he sent me to go get my dad. When the boss man arrived, Ray was in terrible pain suffering with a broken leg. He got into the car for a ride to the Gordon Hospital. Dad sure wasn’t too thrilled about this latest escapade, as we were smack dab in the midst of calving. Dad hardly had time to take Ray to the doctor, let alone get along without him in the days to come. When Ray returned from the hospital a few days later, I helped him pack his belongings in his Ford Ranchero pickup. To show his appreciation, he gave me a nice army leather rifle scabbard that just fit my bolt-action .22. I still have the gun scabbard, and still have a soft spot in my heart for Ray.