Names On The Wagon

Published on Thu, 08/03/2017 - 10:10am

I'm riding the hay wagon on a bright and beautiful summer afternoon and I'm right in the thick of a glorious jumble of hay dust and sunshine. I glance down and notice that the hay bits are accumulating at my feet, so I swipe them away with my boot and realize that I'm standing on a name: "SHARON".  

This particular hay wagon has been a part of our lives for a very long time. My parents bought it secondhand when I was a teenager and it didn't take my siblings long to find a name—"KEN"—carved in one of the floorboards of the hay wagon. We didn't know who Ken was or why he'd carved his name in 1-inch letters on the hay wagon, but we knew one thing: we liked the idea. Before the afternoon was up, we'd all carved our names in the floorboard as well.  

And that started a long-standing tradition on the hay wagon. Anyone who rides on the hay wagon—whether it's out to work in the hayfield or simply on a pleasant autumn hayride—earns the privilege of carving his or her name on the floor of the hay wagon. A small ceremony accompanies the carving process and it involves impromptu dancing and a special song (it's easy to learn; there's only one line, which is repeated endlessly and with great gusto).  

There are a lot of names on the hay wagon now. I look at them as I wait for the hay baler to produce another bale. I see the names of my cousins, my uncles, my grandparents; I see my name—"SAM J", with the added initial to differentiate myself from any other SAM, I suppose—and I even see the names of a few of my cousin's dolls, "ARIEL", "LOLLY", and "LOFTY". (To be technically fair, the dolls DID ride on the hay wagon, thus earning the name-carving privilege. The dolls did NOT, for the record, help much with haying.) 

Another hay bale lands at my feet, right on top of the names of three aunts. This old hay wagon, although amply utilitarian, is so much more than just a piece of farm equipment. It's a scrapbook of memories, a treasure trove of the past, a snapshot of the gift of family.  

And Ken—whoever you are and wherever you are—your name is still on the wagon. Thanks for starting the tradition!