On a hot July afternoon Richard Quintal watches as his grandsons, Chandler, left, and Nathaniel Morse, unload more than 300 bales of alfalfa hay in his Greenvale barn.
KEN BECK / The Wilson PostWhat the hay? Basically, hay is in two forms: Grass hay (Timothy, orchard grass, teff and so on) or legume hay (such as alfalfa). There are also mixes available—Timothy-alfalfa, orchard-alfalfa, with different percentages of alfalfa in the mix. The higher the concentration of legumes, such as alfalfa or clover, the higher the energy content (too much legume hay can cause nutritional imbalances). Most customarily, hay is available in square bales, but also available as large round bales of grass hay. Grass hays, such as Timothy or orchard grass, provide sound basic nutrition. —The Equihab Foundation By KEN BECKSpecial to The Wilson PostSay hey to the Hay Man.That’s the name by which most farmers and horse people know Richard Quintal, local hay broker and Massachusetts expatriate, who keeps his barn full of hay bales in a southeast nook of Wilson County known as Greenvale, where the hills are hillier, the grass is greener and the valleys are full of hay.“I sell a lot of hay. Since 1999, I’ve sold 9,896 rolls and 79,148 bales. This hay here is top of the line,” he said, not bragging but as a matter of fact, in a strong New England accent. “That’s beautiful hay. You don’t see sagebrush or sticks. You won’t find a bad bale here.“Just about all of the baled hay here, 90 percent of it at least, goes to horses. It’s too expensive for cattle. That’s good hay.”This mid-90-degree July afternoon he wears a blue T-shirt, Liberty overalls, a blue bandanna in his back pocket, work shoes and a white Justin cowboy hat that he bought at Tractor Supply. Come winter he’ll swap it for a black cloth one.The Hay Man’s six-year-old barn is 120-feet long, 65-feet wide and 20-feet high. It holds a couple of dozen 1,700-pound rolls of hay and thousands of square bales that are tagged either alfalfa, orchard and Timothy or mixed grass.“I sell hay every day. I can’t sneak a load through Lebanon,” he said. “They see me come through and call: ‘Did you just come through the square with a load of alfalfa?’”This afternoon he returned to the barn with a load of 338 bales of alfalfa that he picked up earlier this morning in Franklin, Ky. He begins buying around June and sells year round. Practically all the hay he sells, he hauls from the Bluegrass State as he claims hay growers there use more fertilizer in their fields and do a better job of spraying for weeds. “I see hay that has weeds, I won’t buy it. I want clean hay. I guarantee this hay. You won’t find a weed in that whole load. No mold or I’ll buy it back. Never had any come back,” said Quintal, 74, who hails from Plymouth, Mass., where he milked cows as a young man on a dairy farm and later operated his own produce business.He relocated to Wilson County 20 years ago and purchased three farms. While cutting his own hay, he had farmers stopping frequently wanting to buy his rolls of hay. That led him to begin selling rolls and then square bales. “I’ve bought hay from him off and on for 10 years. I always found it to be a little bit better hay,” said Alvin McKee, longtime local cattleman, who with his family operated the Wilson County Livestock Market, aka “the sale barn,” for years. “He’s a talker. That’s all he does and all he talks about—hay.” Quintal and his wife, Judy, have five children, 11 grandkids and four great-grandchildren. Two of his grandsons, Chandler and Nathaniel Morse, have become his hay boys as they unload the bales and stack them in the barn. Nathaniel works atop the bales on the trailer. He hefts a bale and allows it to glide down an aluminum ladder that has become a makeshift slide. The bale lands on a wooden pallet and then Chandler lifts the bale and stacks it carefully.“This is better than working at McDonald’s,” said Nathaniel, 14, a freshman at Wilson Central High School. “The hardest part is alfalfa. They’re the heaviest” (the bales weigh 75 pounds apiece). “I like seeing the hay all come off the trailer,” said Chandler, 17, a senior at Wilson Central into his seventh year of stacking hay for his granddad. “Getting it unloaded and seeing the checks is the best part. The worst part is when you have a hot day like this.”Indeed, the brothers must stop often for cold water breaks as the sweat has drenched their shirts after a few minutes of lifting and toting bales.“I’m fussy. I don’t buy the first cutting of alfalfa, it’s too stemmy. I buy second and third cuttings,” Quintal said, speaking of hay as if it were a fine wine. “Mold is bad for hay. If hay is wet and they put it up, it gets mold, yes sir. You know, you have to set alfalfa (bales) on its edge so it won’t mold.”The Hay Man’s protein-rich alfalfa sells for $4.50 a bale, and he has about 5,000 square bales on hand. He picks up hay in a 2000 Ram 3500 turbo diesel truck on which he has put 295,000 miles. Twice this year he has collided with deer in the early morning hours, doing great damage to his truck. His can transport 14 round bales on his trailer.During the drought of 2008, Quintal drove as far as Arkansas, Oklahoma and Wisconsin to fetch bales for his customers. But for relaxation he scoots to Tunica, Miss., where he enjoys playing the slot machines and blackjack at the Gold Strike Casino.It was his wife that nicknamed him the Hay Man, and Quintal recently applied for a Tennessee vanity tag that will read “Hay Man 1.”“Customers ask me how to spell my name when they are writing out a check. I just tell them to put down the Hay Man,” said the walking, talking, live advertisement. “Everybody knows me as the Hay Man.”Editor’s Note: Ken Beck may be contacted at email@example.com.