For years, my family has gotten hay from a man named Pete. He gets it in Eastern Washington and drives it over the pass. He says if you watch you can catch him on the weather cam at the ski resort. My sister Grace used to work for him in high school, riding around in his truck and bucking hay: a good job for a teenager with endless physical energy. Pete is a great guy, and about as Libertarian as they come. This is what I like about Pete: he starts conversations with things like, “I bet you won’t like my bumpersticker.” True enough, I didn’t. It was something about wishing poor people had his work ethic instead of his tax dollars. But right from the get-go, that was ok. He said his piece, I said mine, we considered each other’s positions, neither changed our mind, and the hay got into the barn. So I like it when I’m around when Pete the Hay Guy comes by.
But this summer, my mom found a source for unsprayed, un-GMO, local hay for $6 a bale, which is a hell of a lot cheaper than Pete’s pass-crossing stuff, if perhaps not quite as nutritious. (I guess Western Washington grows poor hay??? Farm rumors…..) Plus, the hayfield was the school project of the brother of the boy who raised my mom’s brown cow Mattie. The catch was, we had to pick it up ourselves.
My family has done three hay runs in the past week. Girls, pay attention. My brother is going to get some biceps out of this. I came along on our latest run, which began at 6:30 on Tuesday evening. Usually at 6:30 on Tuesday evenings, I am thinking about dinner. In fact, whenever I make any kind of plans, one of my main thoughts is, “what about dinner?” This Tuesday, the answer was sketchy: we had a bag of snacks and a chicken in the oven on low. Then, after a lot of yelling and wiggling the truck and trailer up and down the driveway, Aidan, my parents, Charlie the Dog, and I got into the truck and headed towards Monroe. Monroe is about an hour away. It’s in the next county, and you Back East people should know, counties are big here. Monroe is where the Snoqualmie River and the Skykomish River become the Snohomish River, which heads west to Everett and the Sound. It is a wide flat floodplain of farmland and highway and strip mall. And even though my dad did floor it to pass the Mercedes SUV that was driving too slow on the two-lane highway, it was a long way to drive in a truck with a broken exhaust pipe and a strong perfume of mouse pee. Aidan was in the backseat sitting sideways with the dog. I pulled rank for the seat between my parents. It was crowded enough that doing up my mom’s seatbelt for her I pulled out my sixth grade Dolly Parton joke: Have you seen Dolly’s new shoes? Neither has she. Yep. That was at the beginning of the trip.
It was past sunset when we finished loading up the hay. The sky was streaky with pink, and the last light washed over a couple of hot air balloons. I want to say there were meadowlarks, but that is impossible. They don’t live here. There were truck engines and a bad squeak from the overloaded trailer’s axle. But it had a meadowlark feeling, and it smelled so good like hay.
Then came the difficulties. After tying it all down, my dad decided there was too much weight on the trailer. Off came eight bales. Then, pulling out onto the highway, the load shifted. He drove gingerly to the gas station, where we tied it down some more. The gas station attendant, a large man with a ponytail, was out having a smoke. Turns out he was the same gas station attendant as the last time, when my family had stopped with a truck load of hay while my dad literally fixed the truck with baling twine. We had a wise discussion about the merits of baling twine and duct tape, drove two more blocks, and stopped again. This time we moved the bales around and redid all the ties. Teenagers stared. Then it was back in the car.
We finally got the hay home and unloaded. We ate chicken at 11:30 PM while staring blankly at each other.
The next morning, I felt like a bug: my legs could move, but the rest of me was so much bigger and heavier and tireder that I was just a flailing beetle. Now we know what Kafka did for family time.