SigMT Winter 2018

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SignatureMT | 71 One of the drawings that Bill Armitage sent to the Patent office. The patent number is 959,906, and can still be seen by going to the U.S. Patent website. beaverslides are still being used in the Big Hole River and the Lile Blackfoot River areas of Montana today. Whenever hay has been cut and is drying on the ground, there's always a chance that it will rain and ruin the downed hay. Stacked loose hay doesn't have to dry on the ground as long as baled hay. In fact, the faster the hay goes into the stack the beer the nutritional value is maintained. Initially a number of men and dra horses were required to cut, to rake, to gather up, and to stack the grass hay—operations that glide into one another. On one ranch, nearly a hundred dra horses were used. One account told of changing off horses for fresh teams at noon of each workday. Today the haying process is more automated, such as using buck rakes instead of using horse-drawn rakes to pick up the hay and push it onto the beaverslide basket. e basket is now powered by a truck axle that still lis the hay onto the haystack, replacing several horses that were hitched to pulleys that pulled the basket to the top of the slide. e beaverslide was always assembled right at the ranch, manufactured using lodge pole pine found in the nearby hills. A well-built stacker lasted approximately fieen years. Today many of them are constructed of metal, making them last much longer but more prone to aract lightning. e beaverslide is built on skids so that it can be easily moved to another location. "Our beaverslide is a hybrid," said Tracy Beck, "e slide and basket are made of wood, but because the skids wear out first, they are made of metal." Because the cale are pastured where the stacks are located, a fence is built around the haystack. "When I was growing up in the Big Hole area," said Bill Carroll, "the snow would get so deep that the cale could walk over the fence to feed on the haystack. en the haystack took on a mushroom shape, occasionally fell over, and killed some of the livestock." A rancher knows how many haystacks he would like to have on hand to feed until the spring grass peeks through the ground. "We estimate that it takes one and half to two tons of hay to winter one cow. Since we feed close to 350 cale through the winter, we need 700 tons of hay. If each hay stack holds approximately 20 tons of hay, we need about 35 haystacks," said Tim Beck. "It takes a good three weeks starting around the 15 th of July with all family members in the field to hay our meadows." Over the years improvements have been made to the beaverslide. Initially, when the hay dropped off the basket, a stacker moved the hay around so that it made the bread loaf shape. At one time the stacker was one of the hardest workers on the crew. Once the power of moving the basket came from a vehicle instead of a horse, the hoist operator could beer send the hay to different parts of the stack by increasing or decreasing the speed of the basket. e Becks have gone one step further. ey bought a piece of construction equipment called the telehandler and put a grapple pipe on the end. With the telehandler, Tim is able to beer stack the hay by reaching into the stack from the ground and moving the hay from the center out to the corners. One of improvements to the beaverslide was to build a backstop to help shape the haystack. Photo courtesy of Al Kajin.

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