Early this evening, I went to the neighbor’s place to see if he had any used baler twine he’d part with. He’s retired and crippled up some, so he’s become more and more dependent on his nephew and that fellow’s hunting buddies over the years. This year, he had no twine to spare. It turns out that he has started hiring a neighbor “boy” (about age 50) to bale his hay with one of the round balers so common these days. As a result, all the used stuff he has is the plastic twine that the round balers use. He tried to give me the partial rolls in his old square baler, that now sits unused in his shed, but I told him that he’d better hold onto it, in case he ever needed any himself.
Growing up on the farm, the baler twine from the bales we’d fed the cattle was my stock in trade. I used it to fasten stones and sticks together to make war clubs, and fastened larger sticks together into palisades to provide protection from wayfaring trouble-makers and wild critters. I also used it, along with burlap bags and tree limbs, to make my version of camouflage ground blinds. It was also used to tie up temporary partitions in the cattle side of the barn, and was sometimes plaited into halters and ropes. I even used it once to make a bosal, headstall and reins for a horse.
It feels strange that such a one-time icon of country living is disappearing but, of course, that has always been the way of things. I grew up using a scythe, yet you can rarely find a scythe in a hardware or feed store these days due to the switch to string trimmers. The generation before me probably lamented the passing of baling wire, used in the old stationary balers, as I do that of baler twine. Back when loose hay was still loaded onto wagons and into barns, the simple pitchfork was an absolute requirement for living on a farm. Originally made from wood, they eventually were made of steel, and I’ve used them many a day, picking up hay the baler missed, cleaning out field corners the hay-rake couldn’t reach, or even finishing a field by hand, when the baler broke down. It’s been years since I’ve seen a good hay fork for sale in a local store. Most are some ridiculous Chinese copy of a manure fork.
Needless to say, not only are the tools mentioned becoming extinct, so are the skills needed to use them. Even the Amish are becoming more and more modern in their methods. We may be in trouble some day if “civilization” is brought to a screeching halt, either through war or general societal break-down. The bad thing is, we won’t even have baler twine with which to tie our broken world back together! © 2014