It was a hot, sultry day in the last of July, one of those Eastern summer days when the air presses heavily down on the stifling country fields, and in every farmyard the chickens scratch deep on the shady side of buildings, looking for cool earth to lie upon, panting.
“This weather won’t hold long,” William Ford said that morning, giving the big bay a friendly slap and fastening the trace as she stepped over. “We’d better get the hay under cover before night.”
There was no sign of a cloud in the bright, hot sky, but none of the hired men disputed him. William Ford was a good farmer, thrifty and weather-wise. Every field of his 300-acre farm was well cared for, yielding richly every year; his cattle were fat and sleek, his big red barns the best filled in the neighborhood. He was not the man to let ten acres of good timothy-and-clover hay get caught in a summer shower and spoil.
They put the big hay-rack on the wagon, threw in the stone water jugs, filled with cool water from the well near the kitchen door, and drove out to the meadow. One imagines them working there, lifting great forksful of the clover-scented hay, tossing them into the rack, where, on the rising mound, the youngest man was kept busy shifting and settling them with his fork. Grasshoppers whirred up from the winrows of the dried grass when they were disturbed, and quails called from the fence corners.
Now and then the men stopped to wipe the sweat from their foreheads and to take long swallows from the water jugs, hidden, for coolness, under a mound of hay. Then, with a look at the sky, they took up their forks.
William Ford worked with the others, doing a good day’s task with the best of them, and proud of it. He was the owner, and they were the hired men, but on a Michigan farm the measure of a man is the part he takes in man’s work. In the cities, where men work against men, let them build up artificial distinctions; on the farm the fight is against nature, and men stand shoulder to shoulder in it. A dark cloud was coming up in the northwest, and every man’s muscles leaped to the need for getting in the hay.