Anna: So, did anyone figure out what the farm implement I'd posted about was for?
I still don't know the name of it, but it's a tool for picking up hay bales on the fly. If you look at the bar around the front of the contraption, there's a piece turned inwards. That's the piece that attached it to a fitting on the hay rack. As the tractor pulled the rack and this thing along, the guides on the bottom would put the bales into position for the opening under the tall, rectangular metal piece.
From the back, you can see the chain, which has regularly spaced teeth. These would pick the bale up, lifting it in between the chain and the metal panel. When it reached the top, the bale would tip sideways onto the platform at the top of the ladder. From there, I would take the bale and stack it onto the rack.
Before we got this thing, someone would have to walk alongside, picking up the bales and tossing them onto the rack, where someone else would take them and stack them. As you can imagine, that would get pretty tiring, not to mention difficult as the height of the stacked bales increased. As my older brothers grew up and moved on, there were fewer and fewer bodies to get the job done. With this thing, my dad and I could do the work on our own. My youngest brother had worked out a stacking system he showed me that was very efficient; like building an interlocking brick wall, with each layer anchoring the layer below. I had a method all worked out, ensuring a space around this thing had open floor as long as possible before I had to start putting bales under my feet.
I remember one day my dad and I decided to see just how many bales we could stack on the rack with the help of this thing. We'd never pushed the limit before. In the end, I had to get him to stop, not because I couldn't add any more bales, but because it was so high, the swaying back and forth at the top was causing motion sickness. Normally, when heading back to unload the rack, I'd ride at the top. This time, I had to climb down and ride on the tractor because I was ready to hurl up there!
We calculated it out afterwards, and it worked out to be about 500 bales in that one load. Each of those bales ranged from 55 to 75 pounds (the setting on our baler was broken, so the weight would change on its own, and my dad would have to stop and re-set it every now and then). We never tried to do it again, but were really impressed with how many we were able to get on there.
I used to really love throwing bales!