Before the 19th and into the 20th century hay was cut by hand and usually stored in a haystack, the name of my blog. Great stories have been spun of travelers lost in the blinding blizzards on the plains who found refuge by crawling inside a haystack. Cyrus McCormick developed a mechanical hay cutting and bundling machine in 1872 but the first reliable mechanical baling machine didn’t appear until 1939, and after World War II became common on farms. Few, if any of us, have ever actually seen a real haystack yet the name continues as a figure of speech in common phrases such as: “Like looking for a needle in a haystack,” an aged metaphor from the early 1500’s for an almost impossible task.
I entitled my first book “The Haystack,” a play on my family name and the late medieval metaphor about the lost needle. In my early twenties I had purchased a bound book on whose blank pages I intended to write the book by hand. The Haystack never evolved beyond the first page! That lone page was my drawing of a round stone wheel with a smaller stone on top entitled, “The second greatest human invention was the brake.” I still have it as a blank reminder that mistakes can be great teachers!
My early mistake of thinking all I needed to be a writer was pen and paper taught me an important life lesson. While IQ (Intelligence Quotient) is helpful, more important is EQ (Experience Quotient). Experiences of beauty, adventure, painful defeat, heartaches and successes slowly grow into a useful guidebook for life and writing. I now add to EQ hefty doses of invaluable CQ (Curiosity Quotient) about which poet satirist Dorothy Parker said, “Curiosity is the cure for loneliness. There is no cure for curiosity.”
Becoming an octogenarian who isn’t a crossword puzzle fan, I required something to vigorously exercise my aging brain cells. A year and a half ago that need was resolved when I decided to write a weekly blog reflection, and for a name I resurrected The Haystack from its tomb. My hope is that old or new friends reading it might find needles of inspiration within. I also hope those reading today’s Haystack find in it the precious silver needle of encouragement to resurrect some abortive activity or pursuit from yesteryear’s tomb.
Before concluding, I desire to mention “haywire,” that Americanism for being confused, out of control or temporarily crazy. It originated from cutting tightly wrapped bailing wire around an oblong hay bale. Sometimes when the wire was cut it would unexpectedly whiplash around wildly. On occasions may The Haystack reflections contain a wild haywire of paradox or fanatical thought.
July is hay baling season. Since the 1970’s it is common to see those large round bales of hay in fields. In the failing yellow sunset light, to quixotic romantics these appear as phantom covered wagons rolling across the prairies.