Saving the Hay

It signalled the start of the harvest, the sound of the moving machine;
Pulled by two strong horses, they made a powerful team.
The old man sitting at the gap busy edging the blades,
A big straw on his head to shield him from the sun’s hot rays.
The Youngsters would throw out the backswarth so the headlands could be cut:
Not a sop was wasted; it might not be bad winter yet.
The old man thought back to bygone days when the hay was cut with the scythe,
They started at four in the morning before the sun got high in the sky.
Then they took a siesta till the sun began to wane,
They tightened and sharpened their scythes, an acre a day was their aim.
A few days later the turner came on the scene,
With its two revolving heads it turned the gold to green,
It might be turned two or three times depending on the weather,
When everything was ready the neighbours came together,
First it was made into rows and the thumbler came into the fray,
Bringing the grass into heaps which later became wynds of hay:
Some people had a slide or skeeter, a dangerous device,
If the horse stalled at the wrong moment or you didn’t heed the advice.
Next the butt was made and someone would stand on top,
You could be riddled with thistle thorns depending on the crop.
Keep it out, or pull it in, the orders came fast and strong,
No matter what you did there was always something wrong.
The old man raked it down, pulled the butts and tied the sugan,
Then a final touch of the rake and the rest of the crew moved on.
The tea when it came was welcome; it gave us a well earned break,
Bread, ham and tomatoes, buns and carrot cake.
Then the cleanraking was done, picking up remaining hay,
Being in charge of the wheelrake was like driving a juggernaut today.
The job itself was easy but the going was often rough,
There were no sprung seats then; a bag of hay was enough.
When the wynds had settled the sugans were tightened again,
In fear of a Shee Gaoithe, or in English a fairy wind.
The float was backed under the wynd and the ropes were tied behind,
It was inched up with a lever or a cog wheel you would wind,
Some people had hay barns; others had reeks or a stack,
That’s where the old men came into their own, they really had a knack.
When the reek or stack was finished, a layer of rushes was placed on top,
It acted like an umbrella and never let in a drop.
Now the harvest was over, the winter fodder in store, they made their way to the races in the Kingdom Town of Listowel.

Jim Moloney, Ballinruane, Kilmeedy