Monday, March 22, 2010


Working hard at harvest means hot weather and sweat equity. In the Twenties there were no air-conditioned cabs -- not even many tractors and the ones that were ran on steam.

I don't know whether this hay is grass or alfalfa. I suspect the former, as I seem to see long stems rather than the more herb-like alfalfa which may not have been imported yet. The method, called a "beaver slide stacker" in Montana, is still used in some places. It is horse-powered. Is that Inez? The rack on which the hay is piled and rising will go vertical, throwing the hay over onto the pile or "stack." This is on the Strachan farm in September, which would also suggest grass, maybe from that flooded meadow.

This is August on the J.F. Smith Farm, section 11. The method is old-fashioned European stacking by hand, though this was probably cut with a swather. The Strachans might have been leasing this land to raise the crop or maybe the photo was taken out of admiration. Certainly that's a fine barn in the background. The shed might be left from homestead days or just be shelter for animals.

The local idea of how to celebrate a Sunday -- this one in July, 1922, was to go to a high cool place -- Favelle Gorge in the Duck Mountains -- and have a picnic. I believe this pattern went back to the local indigenous tribes and may even go back into our primate ancestors, though they usually got to the pleasant place and just ate what was there. No frying up chicken in advance. This pattern persists among the Strachans to this day. All through my childhood we trekked up a much grander gorge, the Columbia Gorge between Washington and Oregon states, towing relatives from flat country along to be amazed.

July, 1922, and maybe the ghost of the Fourth of July as celebrated in South Dakota is in attendance. The Strachans and the Hendersons are clearly bonded by many picnics together. I can't name the Hendersons. Beulah Strachan, my grandmother, is on the left with her lace collar and what my grandfather called "her tooerie," the bun on the back of her head. He might be the one leaning against the tree where my father's camera case hangs. Plainly someone with the initials BK has been there earlier. May is just to the left of the tree and then possibly Glenn to her left. I think Seth is sitting just in front of Papa. The rest will be Hendersons.

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