The hay baler or better small square baler added one step that made it much easier to handle the hay because it was placed in bales that weigh from 40-70 lbs. These bales could be handled using hooks or better by the wires. In the late 1930s the windrow baler was invented possibly by Ralph Hurlbert(shown in picture). To bale hay the first step is to mow the hay and then rake it into windrows. After the hay is sufficiently dry the baler comes along and picks up the hay and forces it into the square shape with a large square piston that tamps the hay into a continuous square pushing through a chute. Sections are tied off into 3-4 foot lengths or bales.
Hand tied bales were made with three workers. The first drove the tractor, the second poked wires and the third tied wires. The dirtiest job was poking wires, the next dirtiest was tying and the driver was in the clear. In the picture Junior Hurlbert is setting in the tiers seat. The wire poker would sit opposite and forward of Junior. The hay would fill the square chute and the bales would come out the end. In the baler we used the end sloped down dropping the bales to field.
The wires required a “needle” or wire guide. The wire poker would put the needle in the holder on his left and between compacting events the needles were pushed in with the left hand. Each slam of the piston would add 2-3 inches of hay to the column moving the needles along. I would pull the end of the wires out of the tube and push them through the needle. The tier would catch the end of the wire and stick it through the eye of the same wire and wrap it in a figure eight tying the ends of the wire around the newly formed bail. Then we would do the same for the other wire completing the new bale. The poker would then insert a new wire eye end first through the other side of the needle top then bottom. Pull the needle from the hay and place it into the device in time to start over again. I think that we had two needles I would push one in and pull the other out reload the needle holder, push wires through the moving needle and then repeat.
The job was dirty because every slam of the piston against the hay brought a puff of dust right into the face of the poker. The poker and tier wore a straw hat, goggles and a bandanna mask. The hat kept the sun off of your head and face and kept the dust out of your hair. The goggles allowed you to see and of course kept particles out of your eyes. The bandanna mask was our breathing filter. As we finished a field we turn off the baler, dust off our hats, pull our masks down so that we could breath, and take off the goggles so we could see each other. With out the booming noise of the piston we could now talk tell stories, relate how close we came to not getting the bale the right size etc. We would laugh if a bale had been tied too tight and exploded. If the tier got the wires too tight when the bale was released from the chute it would break the wires.
One day as we were riding along between fields telling jokes and having fun. The tier, Darrell Holden, always had fun at every thing he did. He just disappeared from view. I thought that he had fallen off of his seat laughing from my great joke, but as I looked back he was sitting on the seat but it was on the ground. The bolts holding the tiers seat had sheared dumping him on the ground. Fixing the seat was no small job as we had to clean the hay from the chute and then find bolts to replace the sheared bolts. We laughed continuously as we were fixing the seat.
As I remember we got paid three cents per bale or one cent each. Thus a good day we could get $5.00. The problem was we had to drive all over the end of the county to get jobs and we received nothing except when we were poking and tying. You see this was the end of the era of hand tied bales, because those people in New Holland, PA had built an automatic tying baler. Little did I know that Grandpa Allan Good (Linda's Father) ran the computers for this company that was making the old Case hand tied baler obsolete. At Bamberger's Mr. Witt drove a New Holland baler.