Candy Corn And Hay Bales

In my memory, the air has a slight brisk feel to it.  It's late summer, but fall is just starting to whisper in the leaves, a rustling that sounds different than leaves do in the spring.  

My mom, siblings, and I are walking along rows of hay bales, wearing leather work gloves.  I stop at one and swing my arm to bring a hook down into a bale, and then I drag it across a mown field to the truck waiting at the end of the row.  Some bales are heavier than others, depending on how tightly packed they are or whether they hold wet hay.  If we think the hay might be wet, we cut the bale open and let it dry out more before my dad runs the rake and bailer over it again.

My sister and I work together on the heavy bales, double-teaming it with our hooks or rolling them over to my dad's white truck.  He is in the back, swinging his own bale hook and hauling each one up into the bed to stack.

Once the truck bed is filled with bales higher than the cab, my siblings and I climb up to the top.  We hang on to the hay bales as the truck rattles across the uneven field to the barn.  Even though the bales are fairly secure, it still feels a little like riding on jello, the bales swaying a bit with each bump.

We take them to the barn and start the stacking process all over again, this time going clear up to the barn roof.  My sister and I work together most of the time on the top of the stack.  My dad and brother launch the bales up a temporary staircase that we built in the hay stack, and we girls hook them and roll bales into their spots, 20 feet off the ground.  Later, my dad will get a ramp that works as a bale escalator, so we don't have to work so hard to get them to the top.

My favorite part is sitting in the gaps in the stack.  I always wish we could leave a little stair-step ladder of bales and a nook like this all winter, so I could come out to the barn sometimes and nestle into the warm hay with a book.  My own little secret place.

But there are always too many bales to leave any gaps, and we work all weekend to get the hay in before it gets rained on.  At the end of each long day we are bone tired, and we go inside to a hot pot of chili on the stove, candy corn, and apple cider in the crockpot.

My dad doesn't store the hay in bales anymore.  After we all moved out, he invested in a round baler. Instead of small rectangular bales to be stacked individually like Jenga pieces, the barn is filled now with round bales taller than I am.

But every time I taste candy corn, even now, this is what I think of first.  Long days in the late summer sun, trimmed fields next to a rushing mountain river, rustling leaves hinting at fall, diesel exhaust along with the sweet smell of fresh-cut hay filling the air, and learning how to work hard with my hands.

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