“The first load of hay is here!” comes the cry. John Klein has turned in the driveway and brought the first of 10-12 loads of hay for the season. It would be a hot day because that is the best kind for making hay.
Someone would go out to meet John and help block the tires so that he could unhook the wagon from his truck. Then he would bring down another 1-2 loads that evening. We would unload the wagon that night or early the next morning and he would pick the wagon up when it was convenient. The same thing would happen several more times throughout the summer.
John Klein lived around the big block from us. We met him sometime in the early 2000s. Over the years he had supplemented his income by raising veggies for market, but by the time we knew him he was primarily making hay. He had several nice fields that he would mow, rake and bale. Then he would sell the hay off the field to several customers, including us, and sell from the barn to several other customers.
Making hay is hot, hard work, but John enjoyed it. He was good at it, too! He was glad to help those who needed hay for their animals and was glad to work the land.
John had a small field near his house, about an acre or two. He would mow, rake and bale this section first to make sure everything was working like it should. The tractors that pulled the equipment needed to work properly, the mowers teeth needed to cut, the rake needed to rake right, and the baler needed to pack the hay the right way and string the bales the right way. The small field was the right size to confirm everything was working. It was also near enough to the house and barn that, if he needed to fix something, he could go get parts and make the necessary repairs.
In recent years our sons have been able to mow and rake our hay field. But as we didn’t have a baler, John would come and bale the hay for us. They worked out some sort of trade that then let us have our own hay to feed our cows in the winter.
About 3 1/2 years ago John was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. “And you know what that means?” he said when he told us. “It means you have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel!” Over the past 3 1/2 years John had several rounds of chemo and several surgeries. He also became more vocal about his faith. He reminded us that he was trusting Christ in the whole cancer business whether it meant him being healed or him getting to his real home, heaven, sooner. A few times he was without any evidence of cancer. For that spell he felt that God had healed him. And then the cancer came back. And finally he had no more treatment options and was put on hospice. Being extremely independent he lived on his own until the last week of his life. Finally he passed on to his real home and was healed permanently.
In our early interactions, John was just a fellow farmer, the neighbor man that we got our hay from. And we primarily had a business relationship with him. But as time progressed, we would take more time to visit. And in the last 3 1/2 years we would catch up with long telephone calls every few months. This included friendships with my sons. John cared about them and what they were doing in their lives.
John was a good man, had a good work ethic, and had a good sense of how things should be. Of course we will miss the hay from our “backyard neighbor.” But even more we will miss John, our friend. Be at peace.