Working by Moonlight

By Jean Kuehn in Community, People

The light of the moon is simply reflected sunlight. I’ve always liked a moonlight night, but never had any desire to walk on the moon. When a child we never had a night light and lived where there were no streetlights. The moon was my night light as the silver fingers of light crept across my bed or wall. Maybe that’s why I never feared the dark. By moonlight you feel close to nature, to the wolves that howl and rabbits that play and all creatures that roam under moonlit skies. I’ve walked by moonlight, made love by moonlight and swam by moonlight.
The following episode is not a romantic story but is one moonlight night that I shall never forget. It took place back in the late summer of 1980. Myself and husband Fred were custom harvesting grain for neighbours and friends, Cam and Alice. They had two teen-aged boys, older than my Dan who would turn fifteen in Sept. Our ten year old son David was also with us.

We all had our jobs. Fred drove the combine. I had an Allis Chalmers tractor with New Holland baler, equipped with a thrower. We also had two bale wagons. Cam had the gravity wagons for the grain and a truck. He also had two tractors. The farm was in South Easthope, with light somewhat hilly land. The day was hot and sunny. The boys were kept busy bringing both grain and straw wagons out to the fields and back to the barn when full. Cam was in charge of unloading the grain, the boys the straw.
Alice was kept busy supplying everyone with food and enough to drink. We broke for the evening meal around six p.m. At that time we discussed the possibility of finishing. Rain was forecast for the next day. So far everything had worked well and we had had no breakdowns. The decision was made and we went back out to work.
When the sun set it brought a welcome coolness after the heat of the day. I reached for my short-sleeved shirt hanging on the back of the tractor seat to slip over my tank top. Removed my sunglasses and put them in the shirt pocket. In the east the full moon rose bright and beautiful. It was one of those rare times when the dew does not fall. The straw remained dry and I kept on baling. By nine-thirty I had one more long round to finish. The rows of straw now appeared silver in the moonlight, instead of golden. The evergreen trees bordering the winding lane from the road threw spiky black shadows at the edge of the field.
Starting the second last row the baler missed a bale, scattering loose straw instead. I jumped off the tractor and went back to check the baler. The moonlight was bright enough that I did not need the flashlight to see the knotting mechanism. It was okay and I checked my supply of twine and there was enough to finish. Walking around the baler to remount the tractor I suddenly stepped into a groundhog hole with one foot. I was only wearing sandals and when I pulled my foot free realized that the shoe had come off. Reluctantly I explored the dark hole but it sloped steeply away. I could not recover my shoe.
So I did the only thing left to do, climbed back on the tractor and continued baling. Luckily it was my right foot that had lost the shoe. Tractor pedals are hard to operate in bare feet. I made the final corner and finished up the long row. It was nearly ten o’clock. Without unhooking I drove the tractor, baler and wagon up to the barn. Fred was still unloading the last of the grain from the combine. I limped over to our truck, removed my lone sandal and dug out my old running shoes from under the seat.
A few minutes later we all gathered in the kitchen for another delicious lunch that Alice had ready and waiting. She knew that harvesting is hungry work. My youngest was asleep on the couch, no doubt tired out from trying to keep up with the teen-agers all day. The older boys were watching T.V. in the living room. We were all tired and dirty, but happy to have finished the harvest before the rain, the night the dew did not fall and the only time I ever baled by moonlight.