Sunday, June 01, 2008


When I rake the mowed hay into windrows, I have to pay attention. It's not one of those totally mindless jobs that would allow me to think about something else.

Because we live in a hilly region, and our hay fields are not the vast expanses of flat land that may exist elsewhere, it is a matter of safety to concentrate and think ahead. Sometimes, I think my face must reflect all that concentrating. I'm surprised smoke doesn't come out of my ears. One false move could mean a tractor accident and serious injury.

You want to make wide turns and not wait until the last minute. Direction is important since you're either going to rake two rows toward the middle or combine two narrow rows into one so that the baler can make fewer passes.

I think about the patterns I want to make. A maze is pretty neat, especially if I can plan how to leave myself an exit path. Otherwise, it's just riding around and around until you get dizzy. The sun does a good enough job at that.

Now, when I look at Grant Wood's paintings of haying patterns, I have a new appreciation and I'll bet he spent some time on a tractor doing much the same things I do when raking.

Wood was very interested in pattern in the graphic painting of his later years. He was also a clever satirist. There is much below the surface of his paintings. He was not the simple fellow he sometimes led the public to believe he was.

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