I learned to drive in an old blue and white pickup pulling a gooseneck trailer full of hay bales — those rectangular ones that dotted every field, large or small, in the summers of my youth. My friends and I answered neighboring farmers’ calls for workers to bring the bales into the barns, insurance for the winter feeding of the hundreds of head of cattle currently munching the late summer grass in back pastures.
The hay-baling team consisted of me, Rodney, Jim, and Johnny Wade, buddies who got me out of trouble, as well as into it, much of my teen years. That pickup forgave lots of rookie errors while I found the right gear after much grinding of those same gears. Had my dad been present, he would have had lots to say about my so-called driving; but in the company of other would-be drivers, I found my way.
As one of us drove, the rest grabbed the bales and heaved them onto the trailer. When the trailer had all we could stack, the driver turned toward the barn and we unloaded the hay, piling the fragrant bundles of grass uniformly. It went like clockwork. But not always.
One memorable episode had Rodney in the driver’s seat, Johnny Wade riding shotgun, and Jim directing at the barn’s door. I climbed up to the top of the bales, ready to take my turn handing down the hay. Rodney made it to third gear and brought the truck and trailer close to the barn’s entrance. Too late, I realized that we had stacked those bales high, and while the top bale would clear the door’s opening, a teenager riding on the topmost bale would not.
I yelled a warning as Rodney swung the truck toward the door, and at the last minute, I rolled off the top of that load and hit the ground with a thud. Winded but not broken, I realized Rodney finally heard Jim’s shouts of alarm, threw the truck gear into reverse, and proceeded to back right into my path. Gasping, I scooted crab-like just ahead of those wheels, Jim still hollering — as my life passed before my eyes. Rodney stopped, I lived, and we told and retold that tale countless times.
Those summer days were hot and tiring, extending hours and days on end. More than once, I ate my supper on auto-pilot before collapsing onto my bed and sleeping solidly until the clock said it was time to start all over again. Farmers and their teenaged helpers had to gather the harvest while the sun shone; untimely rain could, and did, ruin hay in the field. Tired or not, my friends and I worked every clear day to insure those hay bales made it safely to the barn. There were even drizzly days when we doubled our efforts, running those fields and throwing those bales just ahead of downpours with the potential to wreak havoc on the farmer’s best laid plans. When rainy days come, the time for harvesting passes and a good deal of hard work can be lost.
Proverbs 10:5 reminds us that a wise youth harvests in the summer, but one who sleeps during harvest is a disgrace. We do not have endless days of summer to do the work that insures the harvest. While my friends and I practiced driving, perfected joke-telling, and made some pocket money for gas and extras, the farmers counted on the work we did to feed their herds through winter. Foolish workers would indeed be disgraces, and lapses in diligence had real repercussions.
Our heavenly Father needs our best efforts also. John’s gospel declares that the field is white unto harvest; the time is now, and we must be about our Father’s business. We have answered a call that has far-reaching outcomes, and we must be diligent. Like you, I want to be one of the workers praised for a job well done. To that end, let’s work while there is time. Let’s not grow weary. While the sun shines, while the days of grace extend into our near futures, let us be about the work for which the Father calls us.
Homeword is written by Jim Edminson, Charity & Children Editor