As I Remember Decker Hatch and his son Franklin, Part 4: Cutting Salt Hay


This painting reminds me of Decker Hatch cutting hay, salt or otherwise.
Painting by Frank F. English.

I mentioned cutting salt hay in my previous blog. Alternate common name: Saltmeadow Hay, Marsh Grass, Saltmeadow Cordgrass.  Its a Hay-like grass found in the upper areas of the marsh. It grows 1 to 2 feet high, green in spring and summer, and turns light brown in late fall and winter.

Decker had his share of salt hay on his property behind the airport off Ocean Street. He had a large barn where he stored his hay cutting equipment and housed his horses during the cutting season. Most of the cut hay was stored at this site.

Built by Samuel Hatch. c. Early 1880s.

Corn was also planted in the drier fields nearest the airport runway. I found it great pheasant hunting on those corn fields.

Decker used a single horse hitched to the sickle bar to cut the marsh hay and corn stalks. A team of two horses were used for heavy work and to pull the wagon loaded with marsh grass.

A wagon loaded with freshly cut salt hay.

Cutting on the lower and wet salt meadow, Decker would fit the horse with “marsh shoes.” They were a strange addition to the horses hoof, and rather awkward for the horse. These were used to prevent the horse from sinking into the soft mud.

A set of marsh shoes.

There are hundreds of variations because most were made by the horse’s owner. There was a pattern applied for improvement of the marsh shoe in 1876. I once had two pair of marsh shoes hanging in my barn, each pair were different.

A team of horses wearing Marsh Shoes.

Salt marsh hay uses in days past:
Roof thatching
Insulation of floors and foundations
Insulation for root cellars

Garden mulch
Shrubs and trees
Insulation of shallow wells

Decker sold salt hay to horse farms for stall litter. Others would buy the hay for mulching blueberries and strawberries. A lot of hay disappeared when Decker was away. He would deliver a truck load for twenty dollars.

After salt hay cutting was over, Decker would return his horses to his sister’s barn across from the Hatch’s home. His method was to hitch the pair up to the back of his truck and drive up Ocean Street to Plain Street, and down Union Street. Although Decker drove slow, this was a long haul for a pair of old horses pounding their hooves on that hard pavement.

Now lets talk of a horse of a different color.

Decker loved horse racing — “the ponies.” When the racing came to the Marshfield Fair, Decker was there. His son told me he never missed a day of racing at the  Fair.

This was Decker’s hobby, and he took it seriously. No tree cutting, no sawing lumber, no farming, no hay cutting. When the horses were racing, Decker was in another world.

Rounding the first turn.

He would get a lot of kidding about the “ponies” and how much he won or lost.

A number of times, Decker would stop into Franklin’s shop to chat with Frank and kill time before his dinner. By now, I was accepted somewhat, I could have conversations with him. When I got a chance I would ask, “Decker, did-ja win or lose today?”

After a bit he would respond, “Y-see, y-win some, y-lose some.”

The next time he showed up, same question, “Decker, did-ja win or lose today?”

His response, “Y-see, y-lose some, y-win some.” The ”ya” was almost silent. The “ya-see” was a “yse.”

Franklin once told me to pay attention to how his father arranged his answer. I have always wondered if this was a hint of his wins or loses, or just by chance?

Read his answers again. Leave your comment at the end of this blog.

 Decker must be there somewhere.

W. Ray Freden, Marshfield, 70 years.

“Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people.” – W.C. Fields.

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