Last Load of Hay

by Alden Cole on January 25, 2013 · 0 comments

LastLoadoil on linen canvas
18″ x 36″
collection of Liam & Melissa Braber

In October 2009, at my parents memorial, first-cousin Caroline Strong, now also deceased, handed me an envelope of old snapshots, assuring me I didn’t need to return them. Enclosed was a medley of childhood memories, including numerous group shots in which appeared both older brothers Clark and Wallace, cousins Marge and Gordon, other relations, even myself as a youngster. One particular fading-to-sepia snapshot stood out as a superb composition, probably photographed by great-aunt Gertrude, wife of the gentleman sitting on the lawn smoking his pipe – great-uncle Lee, older brother of grandfather Harris. I decided to turn the snapshot into a painting.

The date is 1942. The scene depicted is the front lawn at Cole Farm Dairy, Dayton, Maine, where I grew up. The last load of hay has just arrived in the front yard, late in the afternoon. The other figures were all recognizable: my first-cousins, brothers Gordon and Bob Cole, are duking it  out on the front lawn; Uncle Lee calmly watches the procession; my dad Richard sits atop the wain, deep in hay; Aunt Charlotte is seen coming around the back of the wagon. Uncle Robert was presumably driving the tractor, since it definitely wasn’t grandfather Harris. He had reportedly tried driving a tractor once, in his early 40s when the farm first acquired one out of progressive necessity, with less-than-stellar results, confirming his negative opinions about tractors and their ilk, even swearing off learning how to drive any kind of automobile thereafter, in favor of being chauffered when he needed to go afield, and using his more familiar and reliable team of work horses while working in his own fields. He was an early technophobe.

The painting was penciled onto canvas the last day of winter 2012, arriving at its present state a few days later, post the Vernal Equinox. I considered it a Work in Progress, moving on to other projects at the time, as I am wont to do, planning to revise the painting once it was totally dry. I never got to it. Of course, I also waited a long time. On Monday January 21, 2013 my friend Liam Braber, inspired by my holiday email series, came to visit, to peruse, possibly to buy. He left with this painting, having convinced me that it was finished, overcoming my reservations about still wanting to add a little paint here and there. I consoled myself with the thought that I had just sold my fourth painting of the year, at the beginning of the fourth week of January. Selling ones work is one of life’s big thrills. I was also glad to realize that if I really want to develop the painting further, I simply have to start a new canvas. Who knows, I might even create the opportunity to sell that one as well.

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