"Terrible news. I've lost my wedding ring!" Kanute's miserable face told me it was the bitter truth.
Next to our dairy was a feed silo high on a stand to provide gravity fall for the dairy feed to flow into bags from an outlet at its base. Kanute had been at the top of the metal ladder attached to the side of the silo, cleaning out the powdery build-up of dust inside the rim. This had become sticky with the moisture from fogs and heavy dew, and his fingers had become encrusted in a thickening layer.
Without a cloth to wipe hands on, the trusty jeans had to suffice with a good flick of his fingers from time to time to dislodge the finer stuff - until one unfortunate time his wedding ring went too! It flew high in the air, glinting brightly and bravely in the sun, over the space next to the silo where a tractor and trailer could usually pass through.
"It just disappeared somewhere in that bloody tall hay shed." Kanute shakes his head in disbelief, as he did back then.
"It had to be the year the shed was filled with a record number of bales of that golden hay, didn't it?"
"Oh yes... SO many they were stacked outside as well. Remember how they filled more than half the space between the dairy and the hay shed? What a year... what a cut!"
Luckily for us, a few weeks earlier the carting of this bumper year's hay-cut was achieved with the help of friends AND a large trailer behind our tractor capable of carrying 90 bales of hay at a time.
"Bit different from our unforgettable first year of dairying... hey?" We nod in unison. Unforgettable was right. We were SO poor, all we could afford was a small wooden trailer on wooden wheels, able to cart only 25 bales at a time, stacked precariously high. Its great bouncy springs and the slope of our land ensured we would lose a large part of the load any time we hit a hole or a bump... and there were many of them on the trip back to the shed.
"How much did we cut again? It was well over 2,000 bales, wasn't it?"
"WELL over!" Kanute blows a hefty sigh. "Try 3,000 bales of pasture hay! That was a bumper, all right."
I shake my head - great for our pockets - but murderous for our backs. Youth, grim determination and absolute necessity do have distinct advantages when the going gets this rough.
Meanwhile, back at the site of the unimaginable loss, Kanute searched high and low - not for the proverbial 'needle in a haystack', but for one bright, shiny golden ring tucked away somewhere in that mountain of glowingly golden hay.
"I searched for weeks and weeks - over and over the same area, again and again."
"Me too," I say wryly.
Every visitor had a hopeful but luckless look, and even the kids were lured into the quest with the promise of $20 to the lucky finder.
"Not bad dough in the late 1970's," I say. This was a small fortune for a kid. Every time Kanute lifted a bale of hay to feed out to the stock, he would search again; eternally hopeful it would miraculously be uncovered. But all hopes were consistently dashed.
Months went by and as the stack of hay shrank, we despaired of finding it and finally abandoned all hope, convinced now it must have been in a bale fed out to the cows, somewhere on our 165 acres.
"Or had slid between the bales and buried forever in the deep layer of broken-down hay at the bottom of the stack."
"Oh yes... that was a thick layer that remained after the last bale was lifted." Once again I have that feeling of hopelessness.
YOU ARE READING
Old McLarsen Had Some Farms - a memoir: Book Two - The Milky WayNon-Fiction
As the title suggests, my second book of memoirs encompasses tales from our decade of dairying on our own farm, back in our home State of South Australia. A different learning curve from the first farm, but no less steep. This time much experience w...