Hay days in Mississippi are like no other

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, July 5, 2023

By Harold Brummett
Denmark Star Route

It is hot. It is always hot in the summertime in Mississippi. From experience, the days are not any hotter now than when I was a young man. There will be some noise about facts and that the temperatures since records were kept show beyond any doubt that it is hotter.

A less couth person would call the climate changers liars, but I simply mark it down as not being true – at least in the hay field.
Many hot summer jobs were either outside or inside without air-conditioning. I quit college after the spring semester one year and went to work for Chambers, the stove factory. No air in the press department as the huge machines stamped out parts for stoves.

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The work was noisy, dirty, hot and stifling. At the end of August, I was back in the registration line at the University. Ten young boys dug a large portion of the ditch around Pat Lamar Park, by hand, with shovels over the course of a summer. This was a federal program to put youth to work.

What we did over the course of the summer could have been done in a couple of days with a backhoe. I suppose it gave us something to do and put money in the coffers of the City of Oxford for administering the program.

There is nothing like digging a ditch in the hot summer in Mississippi.

The marijuana garden is where I spent several hot summers. Jim Urbanek was the straw boss. All American at the University and former player for the Miami Dolphins, Jim was a big man.

Jim’s heart and love of life was as big as he was. Working in the secure location with ten foot high chain link fences topped with barbed wire and guards and guard towers at the corners, lines from the movie ‘Cool Hand Luke’ could be heard. Someone would call out, “Get a drink of water boss,” and Jim’s deep voice would reply, “Get a drink of water.”

“Shakin’ the tree boss,” would be followed by Jim’s “shake the tree.” It was hard, hot work but Jim made it bearable.

I have lived in the Sahara desert but have not been as hot as it felt like at the Neshoba County Fair. No breeze. Speakers spoke in a pavilion that somehow avoided all notion of a wind. Fans churned and turned but it seemed the air was too heavy to move.

Politicians spoke and of course the devil was there as well (the two seem to go hand in hand). I heard Lucifer say after a while he was leaving the fair and going back to hell to cool a while.

The hay field is where it is hard work and heat meet. My family moved 50 bales of hay from Mr. Redding’s field on a day that was the hottest of the summer so far. I was relegated to driving the truck and admonished any time I attempted to lift a bale.

It reminded me of a time years ago when my father was helping haul hay and due to age, he was given the driving job. Dad would hop out grab a bale throw it on the trailer and jump back in the cab.

Frustrated and concerned I almost spoke the words I had heard as a nine year old and given the truck-driving job. “Stay in the truck or I won’t bring you back.” I choked the words back unsaid and hoped I could be half the man he was.

The guinea fowl on the farm have stopped running after each other in this heat. They now trail along behind each other at a walk. Bees beard on the outside of the hive and fan their wings to circulate air within the hive.

Cows and horses seek shade and a pond. I make sure the animals in my charge have shade and water as I retreat to the house to emerge in the early morning and late afternoon. Yeah, it’s hot.

It’s Mississippi in the summertime.

Write to Harold Brummett at denmarkmississippi@hotmail.com.