One summer, conditions were nearly ideal for hay making. We had clear skies and plenty of sunshine for more than two days in a row. One of my neighbors had asked if I would be able to bale some of my hay and sell it to him to feed his cows. He had requested that the hay be made in small square bales since they are easier to feed to his cows inside the barn. As we all know, small square bales are a labor-intensive crop to put up. I prefer to make round bales because the whole process can be done from the cushy seat of a tractor. It’s NOT that I'm lazy.

When financial and physical considerations were taken into account, the neighbor (we will refer to him as Steady Eddie) agreed to take the small square bales off my hands while they were still on the wagons, thereby allowing me to do the whole job from the tractor seat and never have to come into physical contact with any small square bales. We commenced square baling immediately.

Conditions and yields were good, so we were able to fill all of Steady Eddie’s wagons before the supply of hay was exhausted. To finish up, I brought the round baler out to the field and began round baling as Guy No. 1 was filling the last load of square bales. We were traveling across the field with me in the lead and Guy No. 1 following. I finished making my first round bale and backed up to unload it from the baler.

Keep in mind that the key feature of round bales is that THEY ARE ROUND. Also keep in mind that this is Winneshiek County and there is very little flat ground here. As I looked in my rearview mirror, I saw that my bale had not come to a full and complete stop. No, it had taken on a life of its own and begun to roll down the hill at an increasing rate of speed — directly toward Guy No. 1 and the small square baler.

Being mechanically inclined and an effective equipment operator, Guy No. 1 keeps his eyes on his work at all times and is not easily distracted. When square baling, this means looking BACK at the baler. Fortunately, Guy No. 1 glanced forward just in time to slam on the brakes as a 2,000-lb. rolling bale of thunder shot past, just inches in front of him. Since I had remained parked to watch the physics fest and hadn’t continued with my round baling, he caught up to me in the field. Let’s just say that he didn’t look impressed.

It would have made nice headlines in the local paper: “Local farmer (Guy No. 1) and new tractor CRUSHED by wandering hay bale. Younger brother (Guy No. 2) implicated.”

Now, once you have these round bales made, you must transport them back to the building site where they will be stored. According to one urban friend, I farm all of northern Iowa and the operation is a little spread out. So I pull a flatbed trailer behind my truck to move large numbers of round bales of hay long distances.

Rule Number 1 of hauling bales is: Make Sure the Load Is Secure. This means strapping down the load before hitting the road. This was no problem. The problem was that I wasn't really going THAT FAR with my load, so why not stack a second row of bales on top of the first row and make efficient use of time and space? It would be like hauling a pyramid of cans with two rows of cans on the bottom and one row on top. Piece of cake. But if you were to put TWO rows of bales on top, you could make even better time, right?

Yeah, well, this works fine until you come to an intersection and have to make a left turn. The laws of physics and centrifugal force take over at that point and send some of that hay way on top of the load in a different direction than the rest of the load. Again, I looked in my rearview mirror and saw another bale careening out of control. The laws of inertia took over and the bale came to rest in a road ditch, right next to a mailbox. I suppose that, had I crushed the mailbox, this would have been a federal offense.

I returned home with the remainder of my load, quickly gathered the proper equipment and staff, and retrieved the escapee “before any of the neighbors saw it.”

When it comes time to market this hay, I sell a lot of it at an auction in Fort Atkinson. Since the hay will be sold at an auction, it has to be weighed on a certified scale beforehand. There are no certified scales out in the middle of the country. No, they are all in the middle of small towns.

Let’s review Rule Number 1 of hauling bales: Make Sure the Load Is Secured. Now, let’s review Rule Number 1A: If you think it’s secured, batten it down a little more. You can never be too careful.

As I rounded the corner at an intersection on the main highway in Cresco, I again looked in my mirror and saw...you guessed it...a round bale rolling where it shouldn’t. I pulled over to the side of the road to investigate. The very next car coming in my direction (which would have taken the bale through the windshield had it been there sooner) was a nice shiny, white Sedan DeVille with Illinois plates on it. In the words of ZZ Top, the driver had “a New York brim and a gold tooth displayed.” I think the very, very large man driving the car would have answered to the name of Bad, Bad LeRoy Brown had we stopped to visit. He didn’t stop to chat. He did wave. He was NOT using all five fingers, though.

I went into the pharmacy next door and called home to once again gather the proper equipment and staff “before the whole town saw it.” Before my staff arrived, the city street department showed up with their front-end loader and pushed my cargo away from the middle of the intersection where it was kind of, sort of, in a way, blocking traffic.

The moral of this story is that you should always respect the laws of physics. They were not meant to be broken.

Oh, yeah...one other lesson. If you see me and a round bale of hay in the same vicinity — run! Run far. Run fast. It’s for your own good. As we all know, the driver makes the difference!

The Hay Dude