two farm boys playing barnyard basketball under a pole light at dusk after unloading a wagon of hay into the hay mow of a barn

On the farm, summer is a time of both hard work and hard play. On top of our regular livestock care duties, there is also hay and straw to bale. Straw is short lived as once wheat is ready to harvest, straw is baled and done for the year, but hay is continual throughout the season.

We raise and custom bale several hundred acres of hay, some of which we round bale or make into big square bales. But because we sell a large amount of hay, we also bale a significant amount of hay in small square bales. Unfortunately, there has not been any major technological breakthroughs in the area of small square bale hay handling. There is equipment that lessens the burden some, but it still requires good old fashioned manual labor.

As our best hay (and best for small square bales) is made later in the season, it often hot when hay is baled. If there is no rain in the overnight forecast, sometimes it is baled in the afternoon, and we will wait until the next morning when it is cooler to unload it and put it in the barn. Or if we have enough manpower, we will have a crew back at the barn unloading as freshly baled wagon loads are brought in.

But no playing happens until the hay is brought in and safely tucked away in the barn. But when the work is done, and if they have enough energy, it always seems like a game of basketball ensues. That is the case with the boys in “Work Before Play”. Inspired by my husband and his brothers, “Work Before Play” depicts a couple of farm boys playing a game of barnyard basketball after the hay is unloaded and put in the barn.

But why basketball? Here in the Hoosier state basketball has a very rich history- especially college basketball. Indiana is home to 2 Big 10 schools, with 4 colleges, (IU, Purdue, Indiana State, and Butler University) making it to the NCAA championship games numerous times. And countless surrounding states schools making those ranks as well. Also 14 of the 16 largest high school basketball gymnasiums are located in the state of Indiana, with 3 of those being withing 25 miles of where we live. They don’t call it Hoosier Hysteria for nothing.

But this may be where the most basketball happens though- in the barnyard. And if you want to play the toughest game of basketball you will ever play, it’s barnyard ball: an often ruthless, no rules version of the game. But it never happens while there is work to be done for farm kids. Play comes afterwards, even if that means it’s almost dark. Thank goodness for that barn lot pole light.



“Work before Play” is an original colored pencil piece that is available at the Johns Brothers General Store. It was also featured on the back cover of Mary Lou Griffey’s book “The Goal, The Towns, The Teams, The Times”, featuring stories of Wayne County, Indiana high school basketball.  

My boys, a niece, and nephews unlaoding straw a few years ago.