May 30, 2012

Max’s Musings

By Max Molleston

You may know by now that I put in about 30 years of radio and television broadcasting, reporting farm market prices and situations in agriculture and agribusiness. I continue to listen to radio programs on the farm scene. A very early warmth this year brought, among other topics, the chance of a good early hay crop. This opportunity comes with livestock hay prices sky high because of the drought in the southwest. The other day, I was reading more poetry (if you compose poetry, you have to read more of it) and came on a poem that not only held my attention, but took me back in time. The wording actually seemed to match me, in some ways. It is a poem by Gary Snyder, a key American poet for decades and a writer of poems of what I think is the rugged side of outdoors.


He had driven half the night
from far down San Joaquin
through Mariposa, up the
dangerous mountain roads,
and pulled in at 8 a.m.
with his big truckload of hay behind the barn.
With winch and ropes and hooks
we stacked the bales up clean
to splintery redwood rafters
high in the dark flecks of alfalfa
whirling through shingle-cracks of light,
Itch of hay dust in the sweaty shirt and shoes.
At lunchtime under the Black oak
out in the hot corral,
– the old mare nosing lunch pails,
grasshoppers crackling in the weeds –
“I’m sixty-eight,” he said,
“I first bucked hay when I was seventeen.
I thought, that day I started,
I sure would hate to do this all my life.
And dammit, that’s just what I’ve gone and done”

Pat Connelly, Professor in the English Department at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, delivered a special faculty lecture years ago on Gary Snyder, and I have followed his work since. Professor Connelly was a judge at one of my last efforts hosting the Mississippi Valley Poetry Contest. Those of us who labored gathering in the hay and raising it into the barn loft can recall plenty connected with the hard and hot work, making and storing winter provisions for the farm livestock. I’ll let you run across your hayfield memories for a while. I was just 18 when I began as a broadcaster in college and was 68 when I retired. College and Army service mixed in those years for me, but the speaker must have done other things for a living or an avocation in all that time, as well. For those of us 50+ and maybe retired, looking back over a career of work makes 35 to 40 years and more disappear in a wink. Like Santa Claus, I will disappear with a wink and a nod, to return to you in this column next month .