The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

A Shocking Episode

By G. M. Allen © 1985

Issue: January, 1985

A body might think that nothing funny could ever happen in a hayfield, but something did. There are people in our family that, wherever they are, there's goin' to be somethin' goin' on to stir up a good laugh. That's what they think they were put here for!

I'm thinkin' about something that happened in the old days, about sixty years ago. All the modern improvements we had on our farm then were a horse-drawn mower and hay rake. The hay was shocked by hand and pitchfork, carried up by two people on hay-poles (the hay, I mean) and pitched up to form a stack by somebody who had a good, stout arm. Another unlucky worker pulled the hay into the pole, tramped it down, and got hayseeds down his neck!

That day we had several hands in the field. There were Annie and Dora, my sisters, makin' the shocks where the hay had been rolled up by the rake. My oldest sister, Mollie, and an old fellow we had hired to help, Jed Pratt, were carryin' the shocks up to the haystack. My cousin Clyde was pitchin', while I had the happy privilege of trampin' the stack.

Old man Jed was a widower of long standing. He was still right able-bodied, in spite of his "throwin' a drunk now and then. Lately he had been to our house a few times, makin' conversation with Mollie, and we all had been teasin' her about him. The signs pointed that he was struck on her. Even if he did have grandchildren older than she was, he sure had eyes for her. When he showed up, a willing hand to help us get up hay, it turned out that he and Mollie, as second and third stoutest workhands would carry up the shocks.

When we got started to work that day it 'peared that Jed was talkin' to Molly a right smart. Every time they went for a shock a distance away they would stand talkin' awhile before jabbin' the poles under. A couple of times Jed lit his pipe. Clyde allowed he was liable to set the hay afire.

Annie and Dora came up to the stack and stopped. We all watched the carriers a little, wondering what Jed might be saying to Mollie. He walked up real close to her, lookin' down at her and talkin' between pipe puffs.

"If I was in that hayshock I guess I'd find out what he's sayin' to her!" Dora said.

Well naturally that gave Annie an idea.

"I know! You get in one of the shocks over here on this side of the stack, and I’ll cover you up. Then when they come to get that shock, you can hear every word they are sayin'!"

Well, that's just what they did!

Annie took the top off a shock and Dora  quiled up on it, 'bout halfway down.  Closer to the ground she would have been in danger of bein' jabbed with the poles when they put 'em under. She knew better than to get under the shock!

When Jed and Mollie brought the next shock up, Clyde told 'em, "Bring some shocks from over here and put 'em on this side of the stack."

So here they went, not noticin’ that the shockin' business was short one hand.

They talked a little on that trip, but not as much as usual, since they thought Clyde was needin' hay to even up the sides of the stack. And lucky for Dora, they went straight to the shock she was in. They jabbed the poles under, bent over, and lifted with all their power - it had to be with all their power to budge it!

"My sakes!" Mollie exclaimed, What kind of hay grows in this part o' the field?" She apparently didn't notice that as soon as they lifted the shock, it began to bulge below, between the poles. They took a few steps, Mollie gaspin’ because of the heavy weight. Then they set it down to rest a few minutes, and to get a firmer grip on the poles. Clyde and I were watchin', and Annie too, all of us just about to pop.

Well, they picked up the poles and started again. Every step they took the sag got worse. Finally, about forty feet from the stack, the bottom hay and Dora came down between the poles, and of course they saw her.

Dora jumped to her feet and ran like a rabbit, while Mollie took after her with a hay pole. We were all laughing like crazy 'cept Jed and Mollie. They no doubt was a little mad about that lifting they had had to do, and probably because they hadn't caught on any sooner. I like to have fell off the haystack!

Mollie didn't catch Dora, and she couldn't get close to her the rest of the day. But she wasn't much mad after that. She was used to people in our family playing pranks on each other, and she just began layin' plans to get even later. I don't know what Jed thought about such capers. He never came around much after that.