Friday, 13 April 2012
During my youth my mother told me varying recollections of her childhood: of growing up on a farm in rural Alberta. One of those stories involved “stooking”. Today farmers put their hay up in stacked bales rather than sheaves set up in stooks that stand upright. A farmer would drive a two horse hitch pulling a flatbed wagon to drive between the rows to pick up the stooks to remove them to the barn or shed. Today a tractor is used with a baler attachment which packs the sun dried hay or green feed (oats not yet ripened) into a square bale or a large round bale and attaches twine to it to keep it secure until picked up.
Now, the story my mother told me dealt with her wanting to earn the same “extra” money her three brothers did by doing farm chores that involved heavier work like stooking in the fields when harvest came. She thought she was strong enough with the ability to do the same. Housework held no charm for her.
My grandfather, being a shrewd man, allowed her to stook the front corner field consisting of ten acres. Mother thought she would be working with dried wheat sheaves, but soon learned the task involved heavy green oats that hadn’t quite ripened in time for the harvest. Determined to get the job done she persisted.
Fortune shined on her that day. A grove of trees hid the field from the farm house. After several long back-breaking hours, a harvest work crew, hired to work in gangs for large farming operations, passed by on the road. Several of the men seeing my mother hard at work jumped down from the flatbed wagons and joined her in the field. They made short work of the stooking before running down the road to catch up to their ride.
Afterward my mother went to her father and told him she had completed the stooking in the field. He went out to see for himself, and without questioning her how she managed to get it done paid her the money.
Photo Credit: Ewing Galloway, The Book of Knowledge (1937) ,The Groiler Society, Limited, vol. 7, pp.1414. “corn stooks”