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Father's Day - Take Two

First Mowing Machine in Graham County NC

First hay cutting machine in Graham County NC - story by Fred O. Scroggs of Brasstown NC

Gov. Carringer written and documented by Fred O. Scroggs 1925

Uncle "Gov" (J.B. Carringer) one of our oldest residents. Born in the '60s, lived some time on Yellow Creek in Graham, Co., N.C. (yaller creek).

Uncle Gov and his brother-in-law, Vance Shope, brought the first mowing machine ever to come to Graham Co. Sometime in the 90's. Prior to this they had mowed their meadows with grass blades. Folks over the country heard they were getting a machine that would cut their hay and drawn by horses. On the day they set the machine up, folks came from far and wide to see it operate.

"It looked like an All Day Singing or Decoration Day. A hundred or more came from the coves and hollows from all over the country." 

"You see we had bought the machine from Pitt Walker the dealer in Robbinsville for $45.oo, and the news spread, telling it court week just when we would begin. So, people came from everywhere."

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Makes me wish I could have been there to see the fancy new fangled machine do the work of men and hand held blades. 

Tipper

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I can remember my Uncle rigging up a horse drawn sickle mower to his B Farmall, you would raise and lower the blade by hand, it had an iron seat that was kinda springy, if your blades were sharp that thing would mow some grass in a hurry, I was always afraid of falling off, not much safety built into those things.

Ever used a reap hook? It's better than a sling blade if you keep it good'n sharp. Mommy could bout keep up with a man with a mowing blade in shorter grass with one of them things.

Ever made a room inside a haystack? We used to tunnel in and dig out a room at the base around the pole. We got scolded for but the next time we put the entrance facing away from the house and nobody noticed it for a long time or forever. Never got spanked or scolded for that one.
We tunneled in barn loft hay. That is where Luther made his homebrew in the winter time. It was nice and warm back in there upinunder all that hay.

Tipper,
I have to comment on Ed's remembrance of the two-hole and the rare three-hole outdoor privy!
Never did figure out the reasoning but did ponder why this came about. My "idee" was that the person that decided on this design had to go to the privy with the children and both could do there business and be cleaned at the same time...If more than two had to go then unless you had a three seated one or more children had to wait outside in line.
Another thing...like most stories I've heard tell in our family, even the adults hated to make that trip at dusk, dawn and especially at night! Sooo, having a companion seat might relieve the fear of "boogers", critters and creepy crawlers at night, that is if you could get someone to go with you on that little pig trail to the half-mooned standing narrow box!
I remember going in broad daylight and had the "fear" of wasper nests and who knows what else might be down the hole or under the seat...I would do just about anything to keep from going to that scary privy, even to running into and hiding in the woods...When attending one of those picnics on the ground at decoration day!
Thanks Tipper,

Tipper,
Me and Harold use to take our 4 fiest dogs and go play on the haystacks in Emmet's meadow. One of us would go and get a couple of "Chow-cows" (icecreams) at John Nelson's Gulf Station. To us he was known as "Bigfist" and was a Veteran of WW1. Those were days before Dope-heads and mean people. We didn't cut or stack hay but I've seen it done, lots. ...Ken

I have a hay-making story I think your readers would appreciate.

We recently had a week-long revival. Our pastor, who among other things is a ranch manager, was hindered from making his first cutting of hay by rain and the revival. The one day he tried to cut, the rain drove him in early and he had to spent the next dry day fluffing what he had cut but got no further along.

The week after the revival he was anxious to get it done. He got 150 acres cut but the day he was going to roll it, rain was in the forecast. So he prayed before he started early that morning that he might get done. He worked eight hours straight and rolled 274 rolls of hay with nothing but minor delays, the most he had ever done in a day and more than he thought was possible. He doesn't know till yet how it was possible.

He had finished the last roll and had gotten off the tractor to crank the roller heads up to take the equipment to the barn when a blast of wind hit and right behind it came the rain. It was so fierce it blew rain the entire length of a 300 foot barn hall.

Maybe the Lord slowed time down on that 150 acres.

One more thing. The Jeff Wikle place had the only three hole toilet I've ever seen. I've seen several two holers but the three holer is unique.

When Vance Winchester lived at the old Jeff Wikle place he used a horse drawn sickle bar mower to cut hay. I was just a kid and was being constantly warned to stay away from the blade. "That thing will cut your legs off!" Vance also had a horse drawn rake. I don't know of a machine that turned the hay so that had to be done by hand still. The dried hay was piled on a horse drawn wooden sled and pulled to the barn, until it was full, then piled around a pole at the edge of the field. That was in the late 1950s or early 60s.
Vance rented the farm and used the equipment that was already there. Uncle Jeff was a prominent farmer in the Needmore area in his time. He had everything a mountain farm needed including a blacksmith shop. Uncle Jeff died in 1950, the year I was born. Aunt Tiny lived until 1963.

Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Wikle 1862-1950
Hazeltine "Tiny" Morgan 1869-1963

I've used both the scythe and horse drawn mower in my younger days. I still have and use what my family called "Grandpa's wheat scythe." The only part of the original is the metal that holds the blade to the handle, but I still hear that it was 'Grandpa's'

After we got down to one horse Dad shortened the tongues on the mower and the rake so he could pull them with his pickup with me riding them. After I left home he bought a tractor. I love to see the old equipment and remember how it was used.

Forty-five dollars was a small fortune them and some of the tractors and other equipment I see now cost a large fortune.

Tipper,
I cannot begin to imagine how long it would take a single family farmer to cut this field of hay with a "scythe"! I have my grandfathers scythe. It has a iron curved blade, a short wooden handle and the long part curves just a bit so it rests on the upper arm for support during the swinging of the scythe.. It is still in good condition!

Daddy showed us one time how to operate the scythe and show how hard they worked back in the day before the horse drawn mowing machines. They grew tobacco, their main crop.They didn't grow much hay and generally had a farmer down the way bring in his mules and mowing machine! Most of the land had been cleared and plowed for use early on. Only a field or so dedicated to hay.

There is a whole body motion involved. If it is not lowered and swung in just the right way, the hay will just barely lay over. Uncut, it will then stand right back up, sway and wiggle, laugh and taunt you into giving it another bad swing! I would call cutting hay with a scythe..."a hay dance"! Just the right strength, motion with body movement to accomplish the task! My arms and side were sore the next day just from trying to learn to cut some lightweight tall grass! Of course, I was just a little girl, weak and very short. The scythe as long as I was tall! Dad kept both very sharp, sometimes he would stop and sharpen the blades during the task! I could move a "sickle" pretty well as we learned to use a "sickle" in the early fifties to trim around Moms shrubs, after pushing the rolling blade mower as close to the edges as we could. I got whacked one time by getting in the way when that sickle was swung by a brother. Didn't draw much blood but hurt like the "dickens"! I couldn't do it now or even push that mower.
Thanks Tipper,
PS...I see the hay wagon but not the mowing machine!

Even though there were modern advancements, they never reached my grandfather's home. I spent my childhood playing and hiding among the haystacks with extended family...wonderful memories. Also those fodder shocks that decorate some yards were plentiful back then, and they helped feed the livestock.

I bet it was sure a site to see! Great help to get the hay cut quicker as that was great part of their livelihood. I'm glad when we got to a time when tractors took place of poor mules and horses as many were worked to death. Especially in places where they toiled in mines till they collapsed. πŸƒ
But the new hay cutter must have made for happy day of neighborly fun, ..a good day for a picnic..... and a good day for rollin along, and it's a good day for singin a song. 🎢
🎼 🎢🎢. Maybe ?
Oh, I sure love the fragrance of the fresh cut hay.

My Dad had a horse-drawn mowing machine. He had a tractor to but no mowing machine for it. The blade basically 'skated' along the ground. Wicked-looking steel spikes separated the grass at the front edge and a reciprocating knife at the back edge cut it. A shaft and gears converted the forward motion of the horse and mower to the side-to-side motion of the blade.

I have used a scythe enough to know that seeing a mowing machine at work would surely have been a modern marvel in its day. Even with the horse-drawn mower we needed about three nice dry days in a row to get a cutting in. Now I hear they even mow in the rain.

Incidentally, the D R Ramsey Library at UNC has some nice black and white pictures of CCC boys working with hand tools, including a scythe. There are also pictures of the 'mountain farmstead' experiment. These are from the 1930's on the Bent Creek Experimental Forest on the southwestern edge of Asheville.

Isn't it amazing how quickly such news spread without the help of radios, phone, and social media?!

My Dad and I still like to "go see" things and events, watch new implements at work in the fields, see how tools work and things are made. . . .

Sometimes I try to grasp what people felt and thought as some of these machines came into being. It's would be a very big difference between hand cutting the hay and a machine cutting it.
This time of year when I see the machines in the fields, the big gas driven machines, cutting the hay, then just watch, in a few days another machine comes through and piles the hay in neat rows. Then wait a few more days and yet another machine comes through and scoops the hay into neat bales, some big and round and some square and small. Wait a few more days and a machine comes along to load those bales on a truck.
It is truly an amazing process. I remember my Granddaddy's tall shocks of hay piles around a pole...by hand. That was a different time and a different life, for sure!

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