Getting the hay wagon through the gate was always a challenge when taking bales off a field to be stored at a yard. All of the gates were constructed prior to the invention of round balers and therefore the openings were generally snug when trying to sneak a trailer through loaded with 10 bales. 

Clearing the gate was the main obstacle for every hayfield save one, which didn’t have a fence let alone a gate. The hayfield was a small parcel left after a highway project divided a former pasture. The 10 acres or so wasn’t worth fencing in for grazing so it became a meadow. 

At the time, crossing the highway with a full load on the trailer was about the most nerve-wracking job on the ranch. The two-lane asphalt cut angled across the crossroad and a hill to the south obstructed the view of oncoming traffic. It took 30 seconds at most to get everything from the bumper to taillights across the highway, but that felt like an eternity. Crossing the highway was far better than trying to navigate a turn onto it, however. 

We always avoided hauling from that field during peak traffic times for obvious reasons. In fact, we avoided being anywhere close to highways with farm equipment whenever possible. Every farmer and rancher I know does the same. I know how frustrating it can be to get stuck behind a tractor pulling equipment. I can also assure you the person in the cab is just as anxious to get off the road and into the field as you are to reach your destination. 

Sometimes, however, a highway isn’t just the fastest way to a field, it’s the only route available. Farmers and ranchers will go out of their way to avoid slowing you down if they can. The lightly trafficked backroads where normal vehicles are only going twice as fast as a tractor are highly preferable than a blacktop road with cars going three or four times faster. 

Whether you’re on the highway or make a turn onto one of those backroads this summer, be on the lookout for those slow-moving vehicles. As wheat harvest wraps up, there will be fewer combines and grain carts on roadways. But there will still be plenty of tractors, semis, sprayers, cultivators, hay wagons, swathers, balers and other slow-moving vehicles to contend with. 

Being temporarily slowed is far better than a sudden, permanent stop. Keep your eyes focused on the road ahead, slow down when you see farm equipment ahead of you and give a little wave as you pass as an acknowledgement you understand life comes with small inconveniences. 

Use the extra moments to absorb the views that are missed when hurrying to your destination. You’ll find no shortage of natural wonders to keep your eyes occupied. It will only take a few moments before your journey resumes its previous pace. Just as the highways are filled with summer travelers, the backroads are busy with all the activities involved in putting food on your plate.