Old time hay equipment evokes memories of haying time

Jerry Apps
This antique harpoon hayfork evokes memories of haying time from long ago.

It sits in the corner of my shed, it’s been there for fifty years. My kids sometimes ask what it is. My son-in-law asked once about it. My grandkids don’t even ask because Grandpa has a shed full of mysterious “old stuff that he likes to talk about,” and they don’t want to get me started.

So what is it? As any old time farmer will know, it’s a harpoon hayfork, the kind that lifted loose hay from a hay wagon with a series of heavy ropes and pulleys so the hay could be distributed in the barn’s hay mow. This was before the days of hay balers, choppers and other fancy equipment used in haymaking these days.

I grew up using a harpoon fork just like this. Being the oldest of three sons, after our team of horses pulled a load of loose hay into the upper part of our barn, it was my job to set the hay fork. My dad always worked the hay mows, making sure the hay was stuffed into every corner. My younger twin brothers had the task of driving one of the horses that was hitched to the end of the hayfork rope. I rammed the harpoon hay fork into the loose hay.

After I set the fork, I yelled to my brothers, “ Okay.” The horse tightened the rope and a huge load of loose hay left the wagon for the upper reaches of our barn. If I had set the fork correctly.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: The work was hard, but haymaking provided many good memories.

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work go to