Baling Rattlesnakes

I was about fifteen when my summer job between years in high school was to work at the dairy. It was in a little valley were Hope’s Creek Bottom joins the Brazos River, across from the historic Chance Farm. My particular part of the job was NOT milking cows. When I got to work at 5 AM my boss had already been milking since 4 AM. At that point I scraped down the walkways and shoveled bovine digestive by-product for an hour before heading out to crank, and I do mean “crank” by hand, an old orange tractor to put out feed for the “troops”. Later in the day after the boss went to bed, I’d do various other jobs including cutting, raking, and baling a field of Johnson grass hay. (That was before we even knew there was such a thing as coastal Bermuda grass). For once I was the tractor driver, so I couldn’t be the bale hauler because we had to get those bales up as quickly as possible so they wouldn’t get rained on (there actually was occasionally a chance of that). I hired four of my African-American friends from the edge of town to come with their pick-up truck and flatbed trailer to haul and stack the bales for me.

I was cycling along, jerking back-and-forth with the rhythm of the baler, almost asleep, but trying to be sure all the equipment was functioning, when I happened to look back and see all four of my friends splitting out across the field in five different directions. I pulled the tractor and baler out of gear, idled down, jumped off and ran back to the truck. “What’s the matter?“ I called to them. They waved and pointed to the bale from twenty yards away. I looked down then jumped away myself. I’d baled a rattlesnake into the wires of the bale. He was beyond pissed off! We left that bale in the field. But they turned over every bale they picked up after that!

Later the boss needed me to drive the bobtail truck along as he cut silage and augered it into the bed of the truck. He said “close up the driver side window.“ Well, it was a typical Brazos County summer day: 101°F in the shade with 99% humidity, so I elected not to close the window. I was matching the speed of the silage cutter just fine until I hit a pothole in the pasture and stomped the clutch, which slowed me down. Immediately I got an earful of silage and about two bushels of green chopped cane in the cab of the truck. Heat or no heat, I cranked up the window! Needless to say, I crossed dairyman off my career list!

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