When I was growing up, my family was not an outdoorsy kind of family. Sure, Dad played golf a few times a week, and I went to the municipal swimming pool, but we were definitely not campers or hikers. Grandpa took me fishing a few times, but we didn’t make a habit of it. Once and only once did I spend the night at a friend’s house and slept in a tent. One of the screens was ripped, and we spent the night battling the eleventy bazillion mosquitoes that wanted to spend the night in the tent with us. We didn’t make a habit of that either.
It wasn’t until Darling Hubby and I became an item that I ever actually went camping. Thanks to his family, I got to experience it all. Outdoor cooking (and eating), jam sessions with any musicians that brought an instrument, fishing, swimming, group tie-dye parties, and working on our latest craft projects were all regular activities on a family camping trip. I even got used to sleeping in a tent and getting dressed at 90 degree angles, in addition to *ahem* using the bushes late at night, being careful to not stumble into any poison ivy.
And who could forget the most iconic, indeed, the most necessary part of any camping trip, the campfire? Where else can campers roast weenies and marshmallows, kick back in the firelight, and relive the best moments of the day? We made the happy discovery that corn dogs and egg rolls are delicious when grilled over the fire, and I made the discovery that I constantly have the smoke magnet in my pocket.
Seasoned campers know all about the smoke magnet. It’s an invisible beacon for campfire smoke, ensuring that, no matter what the prevailing wind speed or direction, the smoke will follow the holder of the magnet. No matter how often you move, or how far away from the firepit you get, the smoke will follow the holder of the magnet.
And, just the other week, I happened to discover that pocket magnets aren’t limited to campfire smoke. Apparently, hay magnets also exist. Much like the smoke magnet, the hay magnet ensures that, no matter what the wind speed or direction, the bearer will be covered in hay, usually the coarsest and scratchiest pieces where you least expect them.
After Darling Hubs broke his collarbone, I started doing more of the outdoor chores that he used to be responsible for. Since I don’t know how to drive the tractor (YET!) to get a round bale for the horses, I’m pitching squares over the fence. I get a reasonable workout this way, since one of the rings is about fifteen feet from the stack, and the other is 50 feet away or so. (I’m pretty proud that I can now carry bales one-handed, so that’s a plus.) After some trial and error, the easiest way is to cut the twine and throw it by hand over the fence, about 3 or 4 flakes at a time. This method worked just great until last week, and I got fairly good at precision placement for optimal consumption.
All of that changed when the temperature hit 85 the other week. Up until then, I’d been going out in jackets and hoodies, brushing the stray bits of hay off of my shirt and jeans. Easy peasy. Then it got nice and warm, and I wanted to catch some rays. Out I trotted in my cute little tank top. Everything was normal at first. I climbed up the stack and threw down the day’s bales. I carried the first one over to the fence, cut the twine, and picked up the first chunk. As I lifted it, a warm breeze hit my face, and brought a decent amount of hay fragments and dust with it. Spluttering, I tossed the hay and brushed myself off. I grabbed the next section, made an adjustment to my position relative to what I thought was the prevailing wind direction, and tossed . . .pfffffft. Faceful and shirtful of hay. People, I had hay in places where hay simply should not be. Doggedly, I finished both bales. The ponies munched contentedly, oblivious to their crazed owner attempting to excavate the itchies from her upper body.
The next day, I tried a pitchfork, to try for a better angle out of the breeze. Bad idea. It picks up less hay at a time, making more opportunities for the wind to shift ever so subtly in my direction. I suddenly became aware why so many ranchers wear button up shirts (and indeed, why so few wear cute little tank tops). You get much less hay in your shirt when it buttons up to the neck.
The Bible says that there is a time and a season for everything. Sure enough, there is a time to wear tank tops, and a time to not wear tank tops. Feeding time is definitely the latter. Appropriate attire is important, y’all. Hay is not a fashion accessory. May your tank tops remain hay-free, my friends.