Humble masterpiece

Published 5:47 pm Tuesday, April 7, 2020

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If a college professor were to ask a classroom of students, and I’m talking about some of the brightest on campus, about haywire, barb wire and gem clips, how many of them would know what he/she is talking about? Especially the last one.

When traveling and engaging in paperwork in my hotel room, I often take a trip to the front desk where there is always a pretty, young girl with a winsome smile, accompanied by an eager offer to assist. “What can I help you with” she will say. You want to have some fun? You want to flummox her and make her blush? Just ask if she has a couple of extra gem clips.

Even her colleagues will usually stiffen with raised eyebrows and quizzical glances. Ask for paper clips, and it is a slam dunk, but a request for gem clips will usually bring about a perplexing frown.

Is there anything more practical in our daily world than the paper clip? It has been around for decades and has been referred to as a “Humble Masterpiece.”

Perhaps no invention has stood the test of time more than the paper clip.

There is one reference to the fact that the paper clip was invented in 1899 with this footnote: “….that it has not been improved upon since.” Let’s see — if you are a middle aged accountant, chances are that the paper clips you are using are the same that your great, great grandfather used in his day.

And how did gem clip gain traction in our lexicon? Seems that there was a company in London which produced the first paper clips, “The Gem Manufacturing Co.”

To begin with, the young folks at a front desk would likely not know that haywire to a farm alumnus is that durable and flexible wire that was originally used as bailing wire for hay.

More than likely, haywire to a young professional today would mean something has gone wrong. Like the gem clip, haywire has also stood the test of time. In the make-do world of yesteryear, one had to be able to “fix” things if you wanted to survive, especially down on the farm. Two things that were essential for rural folk were a garden and haywire.

You could tie haywire to the tow bar of your tractor and pull a tank across a field. If your axe handle splintered just a bit, you could wrap haywire around the fractured handle until it was good as new. Although friction tape was better, haywire could be used to repair a broken bat.

Not sure if haywire or bailing wire is prevalent today.

I suspect that if a farmer were bailing hay today, he, more than likely, would use a rugged cord which, probably is cheaper. When you ride through a field in the fall, you see those big rolls of hay, which confirms that the bailing of hay in those handy rectangular bales is a thing of the past.

To be fair, what would happen to a geezer today when that pretty young girl at the front desk, presented him with a computer question or challenge.

No question, he would likely go haywire.