A straw stack is a huge mound of loose straw that has been stacked (arranged) into a round or oval-shaped pile that looks like a giant loaf of bread. It’s a beautiful sign against the horizon.
Once upon a time, as one drove through the countryside, one would see one of these big yellow-gold mounds of straw. Just about every farm sported a straw stack.
A straw stack would usually be located within a fenced in area called the cattle yard; it was usually located somewhere close to the barn. The livestock typically had access to this stack and found it to be a comfort zone during rainstorms or snowstorms. It offered safety and warmth — a place for the animals to gather.
The cattle groomed this stack until it became a sanctuary when bad weather came. After they had eaten what they could reach, it looked like a giant mushroom. Then, this hollowed out space became a wonderful shelter.
Again, a straw stack was a haven for the cattle. It was usually close to the barn so that the small cows could go directly from the barn to this place of comfort and warmth — and a place to munch away at.
Often the straw stack played host to a crabby bull, too. Even though we were cautioned to beware of the bull, we would sometimes tease him. We didn’t fear him because we always felt we could get to safety should he come after us. Our safety net? The other side of a two-wired movable fence. He never charged us, though, so we never had to find out how safe our escape route really was.
This straw stack was certainly multi-purposed, though, since we used it as a playground, too. We pulled out straw to form “steps” so we could climb to the top. Here we would play “King on the Mountain” and ruled over the cattle below.
Yes, animals seemed to keep a farm alive and vibrant.
But, we no longer have small farms — with small herds of cattle — that need a small straw stack. Bailed straw has replaced this loose straw, this “fun” straw.
Genevieve Jeppesen Mielke has lived in Worthington for 90-plus years. This article is written to be included with memoirs of other family reunion members.