Haying Season (ca 1950)


- Rights: The Stewart family shares this film under a Creative Commons attribution license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0 External).

- Les Stewart's film “Haying Season” (ca. 1950) documents haying on the Ninety-Six Ranch. Les’s narration, including comments from his seven-year-old grandson Brad Kaser, was recorded on July 7, 1982, by Margaret Purser and Carl Fleischhauer. Les's footage testifies to his sensibility and skill as a documentary filmmaker. The film indicates his concern that every process step be included and his understanding that the work event includes the arrival of the workers, the preparation and setup of equipment, and the meal that marks the midpoint of the day.

The era following World War II was the time of transition from horse-drawn to motor-driven machinery. In the footage of haying, some horse-drawn equipment, including the derrick itself, has simply been attached to a tractor or jeep. Mechanization of this sort does not offer much of a reduction in labor; the next generation of machines, designed to work with internal combustion engines, enabled ranchers to cut back on hired help. Les's narration explains how the work is organized and directed. In the opening section of the film, he notes that scheduling haying between major holidays reduces the likelihood of losing the crew to celebratory drunkenness. The hierarchy of workers is implied in his comments about the lead mower and the stack boss.

Les also tells how members of the mowing crew would criticize each other for failures to execute the work properly. The stacking crew also exercised self-discipline through verbal exchanges in a competitive work environment. In remarks not included in this soundtrack, Les said that if one corner of the neat, box-like stack were to collapse due to a stacker's poor craftsmanship, the crew would "whoop and holler and embarrass the poor guy to death." The haying crew posing for the group portrait shown here numbers eleven.

In 1983, Les could still recall many of the men's names: from the left are Raymond Arriola, Frank Sellers, an unidentified Indian, George Morrel, Bias Urrieta, Gus Ramasco, an unidentified Indian, Stanley Smart, Arthur Horn, Albert Skedaddle, and an unidentified man. The stackers in the Ninety-Six's crew were Northern Paiute Indians. Les said that they were better at the work than whites, an idea echoed in Stanley Smart's comments in a related audio selection.

When mowing and stacking occurred simultaneously, the number of men in a derrick-era hay crew might total eighteen or twenty. The mowing crew would consist of about five men on mowing machines and one or two men operating buck rakes. There might be one or two more men supporting this crew and yarding the hay, pushing it to a location convenient for the subsequent stacking operation. The stacking crew included five or six stackers on top; two net tenders and a tractor driver (or teamster) on the ground; and two buck rake men to move hay onto the net. Les said that the stacks would sometimes stand for as many as a dozen years, and the slight amount of precipitation in the valley would only spoil the outer layer. Stacks of baled hay will not last as long.

Tractor & Machinery
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