This article is written from the perspective of Reuben Shetler, a purchasing agent at nuCamp. This is the third in a series of four connecting nuCamp’s core values to the Amish culture. The company has four core values — work hard, always do the right thing, service over self, and care genuinely.
The alarm pierces the stillness of an Amish bedroom. It’s 4 a.m. My dad rolls out of bed, ready to start a new day.
Every day is busy on an Amish farm. But today will be especially so because there’s hay to make on the hill on the other side of the road.
Dad hurries to the barn. The silence of the morning is punctured by the trilling of dozens of toads in the pastures. Stars twinkle in the still-dark sky. It’s going to be another hot day, but right now the freshness of the morning is pleasant indeed.
Two dozen cows wait impatiently outside the barn entrance. Dad lets them in, and they file eagerly into their stalls, ready to munch the feed he tosses in front of them. Moments later Mom appears, her hair tied back under a black scarf — it’s milking time!
After the chores are done, and the children are roused, my family eats breakfast together. We eat eggs and toast, followed by store-bought cereal, and washed down by white milk fresh from the cows that morning. After breakfast, we gather in the living room for prayer. Then the day of hard work begins.
Working the Fields
My oldest brother, David, hitches two Belgian workhorses to the hay rake. The team trots out the lane to the field, their harnesses jingling amidst the pounding of mighty hooves.
David spends all forenoon raking the hay. Meanwhile, Dad is greasing and finetuning the hay baler.
As soon as David returns from the field, Dad unhitches the horses. He leads them to the water trough, and they drink deeply, their sides heaving. Then he ties them in their stalls for hay and oats so they can rest while we eat lunch.
As soon as the last dishes are dried, all the children join Dad in the hayfield. Dad has hitched three horses to the baler and is making the first circle around the field.
The raking David did in the forenoon pushed the loose hay together in neat furrows. Once Dad starts baling the second furrow, we children roll the hay bales together.
This is hard work. The bales are heavy, weighing 50 to 60 pounds. We have to move them about 15 feet to the next row. The more we can combine the bales, the less time it will take to load them onto the wagon.
Sometimes I roll the bales by pushing them with my feet. Sometimes I grab them by their twines and toss them. Sometimes I drag them. I move one bale, then run to the next. We’re quite a sight, two boys and two girls, running barefoot through the stubble. The sun beats down without mercy. Dust from the hay sticks to our hair. On and on we go, all afternoon. The only time we stop is at the end of the row to gulp water from a jug.
The baling and rolling of bales is completed by supper time. We eat, then David and Mom go to the barn to do the milking. Dad hitches two horses to the hay wagon, and my brother Daniel and I jump on board. Off to the hayfield, we go again. We boys toss the bales up, and Dad stacks them. At first, the going is slow. Then a neighbor boy comes walking through the field. He grabs a bale and tosses it up. I jump on the wagon and help Dad with the stacking. Now we move at a faster clip.
Dad and Daniel take the full load to the barn, where David will help them unload it. The neighbor boy and I sit in the field on hay bales, talking about horses, dogs, frogs, and everything else that’s important in an Amish boy’s world.
The wagon returns, and we work on the second load. By the time we’re on the third, another neighbor boy has joined us.
One more load to go! The sun is on a free-fall toward the horizon. It’s a race against the increasing shadows to get the last load in. The wagon returns with David and Mom onboard as well. Help is plentiful now. For this load, I just have to drive the horses. The western sky glows a brilliant red. Crickets chirp. The hillside rings with happy talk and banter as hay bales fly through the air.
The last load is pushed into the barn to be unloaded in the morning. The horses are turned out to the pasture. My family, neighbor boys included, sprawls in the yard in the darkness to enjoy popsicles and chocolate milk. Nothing could be more refreshing.
After everyone else is in bed, Dad relaxes on the porch. The night hums with the music of insects and tree frogs. A vibrant half-moon shines above the peak of the barn. A soft breeze carries the scent of fresh hay to the porch, and Dad sighs. It was a busy day, but what feels better than hard work?
A Culture of Working Hard
Working at nuCamp today, I’m far removed from the hay fields. But I see that same work ethic on the production floor. The assembly lines sit silently overnight. But as early as 5 a.m., people start showing up. Soon the lines are a blur of activity. Boisterous conversation fills the air. One unit rolls out the door, then another. Teardrop trailers are being built with joy and at top quality.
Quite a few nuCamp employees grew up on Amish farms like I did. But even the ones that didn’t learn how to work at a young age work hard to meet production goals. Our neighbor boys didn’t live on farms, but they gladly helped us. The saying, “Hard work is its own reward,” may be old, but it’s very true.
A hard-working man or woman knows a sweet satisfaction that comes from being a useful steward on Earth. He knows that he matters because he’s willing to give himself for a greater cause.
Just ask my dad. He’s older now, and no longer a farmer, but he will look back on those years of hard work and say, “Those were the good old days.”