You Give Me Fever

     Well, we are thoroughly into summer now (I saw my first Back-to-School Sale ads) so perhaps you feel this is the wrong time to discuss romance in the long grass.  But hey (this is the last time I’ll make that joke on this outing.  Promise.)  But grass grows more months of the year than in autumn, and romance is seasonless.  What I mean to say is that hay can be gathered from late spring through the earlt frosts, and there is no cut and dried season for gathering rosebuds.  (And we will put an end to the cut and dried jokes now, too.)

     Ecen in the big cities, few people were far from the concept of open fields, and the knowledge that long grass and other crops could provide camouflage for experiments in animal husbandry.  I do think the publishers of this postcard could have shoved down the grass just THERE, as it creates a sightline that gives the impression the young lady’s figure…well, I wasn’t there.  Maybe the growth was abundant that year.)

     This all played into a city-grown concept of farm romance, which was a major factor in popular literature in the nineteenth century.  See, it probably derives from the idea, pushed by Thomas Jefferson and others, that city life was generally unhealthy, and life in the country air was more robust, more real.  This is now seen mainly in cowboy romances, but there used to be a vast movement by city folk to spend some time on a farm during the main growing season, during which the city folk would pay for the privilege of working like, well, like farmers from dawn ‘til dusk, just so they might have a chance at scenes like this.  (In reality, the city folk would be too exhausted by the constant work—so were a lot of the farm folk—to engage in hanky=panky, but we are dealing in romance here.  The caption of this card, by the way, is a reference to an urban pop song, though tall grass plays its part in the story.)

     Of course, if one stayed up late at night, after the chickens had gone to roost, maybe you’d all get your second wind.  Then the camouflage of a handy haystack might prove useful.

     I do not have much data on the mechanics of the proposition, but I do think what you did if underneath a haystack was try to get out again.  Maybe this form of hay is easier to draw so it can be understood than a hayloft, which I should think would be more convenient for this sort of hay fever.  Note that the chickens seem to be shocked.  (We will be making no jokes about shocks of grain, as I feel that is best left to the farm joke professionals.)

     Now, to get to the main target of this blog, we must consider the hayride, that adventure on which, if old stories are to be believed, romance could blossom and young couples got to know each other rather better than they could during the workday.  The hayride, I am told by the unromantic, started as a time when those working on the harvest could get a nap.  The hay had to be transported once cut, and kids and tired, er, hired hands would ride on top of the hay to the spot where it needed to be unloaded.  The hayride was wildly popular in farm romance, and pretty soon the farmers who charged city folk a fee to come and work on the farm realized that other city folk, out to the country on a day trip, would pay a fee to ride on the cargo.  One load of hay could bring in several loads of money, as carloads of tourists could be transported from farm to barn or railroad depot several times before the hay actually had to be unloaded.  (The approach of rain had to be measured against the approach of tourists, and the canny farmer had to time these trips just right for maximum profit.)

     The romantic possibilities of the hayride and the tourists who enjoyed it started somewhere in the late nineteenth century, and the city folk seemed to be having so much fun that hayrides became traditional even if there were no tourists available.  Even country folk were caught up in the romance of the thing, and the hayride, sold to tourists as an old rural tradition, eventuallt SDID become a rural tradition, associated with the autumn harvest and the celebrations that went along with completing the hard labor of the season.  All work and no play, after all….

     This postcard appears to have been published in 1910 by a major agricultural company (THE major agricultural company, as a matter of fact) and to my naughty modern eyes makes no secret about what we’re up in the hay for: good wholesome fresh air and a sense of fun.  The fact that we’ve paired off and are reclining…well, there’s nothing like the scent of new-mown hay.

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