Ben turned his pickup around carefully because Wayne’s dog was barking and running circles around it. When the truck was in a good spot, Ben got out while Wayne, with a hay spear on his tractor, picked a large round bale of peanut hay from his warehouse. The dog watched Ben carefully. A large, black cow chewed quietly nearby, and three other’s slowly walked along a hill in the distance. Ben didn’t know how far back Wayne’s farm went.
The Dakota sunk a bit as Wayne carefully dropped the bale in the bed. Ben reached into his pocket and pulled out two twenties, which the big dog sniffed at. Wayne backed his tractor up and turned it off. “How you doing, Ben?” They hadn’t spoken since an earlier phone call. “Fine, how about you?” Wayne climbed down from the tractor and they shook hands.
“Have you gotten any bad bales?”, Wayne asked.
“Well the last one was a bit moldy”, said Ben.
It was understatement. The middle was dark, moist, and embedded with white mold that broke into smoky dust when it dried. Had it been the first bale Ben ever got from Wayne he wouldn’t have come back for a second. But it wasn’t the first. Ben had been getting hay from Wayne ever since Mark and Tina mentioned him, and that must have been at least two years before. Ben was happy enough with Wayne not to make a fuss over one moldy bale.
“I ran into a few like that”, Wayne said, “I couldn’t tell from looking at them, but when I got into them I saw they were bad.”
Ben agreed and said, “It was O.K. on the outside. They ate most of it.” Ben was referring to his goats. He had given his goats most of the hay but eventually decided he just couldn’t give them any more. Mold can kill livestock.
Wayne said, “Why don’t you just take that bale.”
Ben was surprised. “OK”, he said. “Thank you. Very much”.
“Well I just want to do what’s right”, said Wayne.
They said goodbye and Ben got back in his truck. As he drove off he thought, “Huh, I should mention this in my blog.”
Wayne Byrum is one of the last American farmers not to be consumed or run off by food factories. His farm is in Gates, North Carolina. He sells high quality pastured beef from cattle that aren’t confined in feed lots. He also sells goats and, of course, hay. His number is 252-357-1742.