The Last Windrow: If you don't understand my words, contact me - or Google it

The word "windrow" might be confusing to some. It's simply a row of hay or oats or wheat that is left behind the mower in order to be easily bailed or combined.

Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

Are the rural words I use in this column confusing to you?

I had one of my regular column readers relate to me a few weeks ago that some of our younger generation might not know what I'm talking about. I hate leaving anyone in the dark. After all, in my mind this IS an educational column!

Most of those who regularly read this column know by now that I was raised on a small farm in northwest Iowa. I grew up hearing the words of my parents, grandparents and relatives. All were pretty much rural related words, and today many of them have been tossed into the dustbin of used language.

The person who contacted me suggested that the title words of this column might not be understood by anyone under the age of 40.

"You might have to explain what a 'windrow' is," he wrote. "Younger folks probably have no idea what you're writing about unless they too grew up on a farm."


Windrows of mowed and raked hay drying in the field.
Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

l guess I never thought that the words I use are no longer understood. But, maybe my friend has a case?

I started this column in 1983 and had to change the title of it because someone wrote me that they already had a copyright on the initial column title I used, which was "The Back Forty." I thought this complaint was a little picky, but I didn't relish a letter from his attorney threatening to sue me.

Columnists like me don't have much financial wherewithal to withstand a lawsuit. So, I changed the name of this bit to "The Last Windrow."

I chose that name because on my way home from a hay or oat field on our farm, I would sometimes daydream of the happenings around me. As the tractor bounced over the hills and pocket gopher mounds, my mind wandered. It still does.

But the word "windrow" might be confusing to some. It's simply a row of hay or oats or wheat that is left behind the mower in order to be easily bailed or combined.

Any farmer knows this, but many of those growing up today are not growing up on a farm as they did when I was a youngster. They are nonfarm folks who have lost their way when it comes to directly understanding farm language. And so words like "windrow" might not register.

There are many other words that were common from those early farm days. Words like "end gate seeder," "pitman bearing," "flare box wagon," "fifth wheel wagon," "clevis," "3-point hitch," "petcock," "vacuum pump," "windmill leathers," "strainer pads," "flywheel," "loafing shed," "oat bundles and shocks," "dead furrow," "hay buck," "cow kickers," "corn knife," "bat ear cultivator shovels," "speed jack," "plow shares" and many more.

Farm tools hanging on a wall.
Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

I would guess that many of my younger readers might need to look up some of these words on the internet to get clarification. But I, in the same vein, do not understand the farm words used today as common language.


Farm life and the descriptive words that describe it now have changed along with the machinery now used on a farm.

I receive email messages from my nephews and nieces that I can't decipher without help. I don't know if the words carry a positive meaning or a negative meaning. And now, to make it even more confusing, words are coded using only capital letters like OMG! (I know that one!)

And so, perhaps my friend is correct in suggesting that some folks might not understand what I'm talking about using words from my distant past. I guess I could use footnotes at the bottom of the column to explain those words, but I am limited as to how many words this column can contain by my editors. That's probably a good thing.

John Wetrosky - Last Windrow.jpg
John Wetrosky, Columnist

I would suggest that if you don't know what I'm talking about, just send a note to the newspapers I write for and ask those questions to be forwarded to me. I'll be happy to try to clear up any confusion!

Or just Google it. The meaning is there. Times have changed.

See you next time. Okay?

Opinion by John Wetrosky
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