A Dark and Stormy Night And A Very Bad Idea

Jan 09, 2006

RAY: This puzzler was sent in with the requisite pre-obfuscation by a fellow named Jay McDermott. He says, "This will give you the chance to use, 'It was a dark and stormy night.'"

Pay attention: There are lots of clues, and lots of obfuscations and red herrings.

Here it is:

"It was a dark and stormy night. Out in my leaky old barn, I had removed the differential from my tractor and prepared to load it into the pickup truck.

I struggled to get the differential up to the tailgate, but without help, I was unable to lift it the last two feet off the roller cart.

Then I got a bright idea. I could use the two floor jacks, which were holding up the rear end of the tractor! But what to put under the tractor to keep the rear end of it up in the air? Vainly, I searched for a block of wood, or anything I could use to hold up the tractor. I found only a hay bale on a shelf in the horse stall.

"Good enough," I said, and I dragged the bale under that beat up old tractor, and then I pulled the jacks out. It worked! And, not a moment too soon, because within minutes it became even darker and stormier, and by the time I finished, water was just about covering the entire floor of the barn. But, at least I was done.

Well, one thing lead to another, days went by and weeks went by... The differential stayed in the back of the pickup and the hay bale stayed under the tractor.

Then one night, the barn caught fire and burned to the ground.

My wife was ecstatic! She said, "I knew that was a bad idea."

The question is, what was a bad idea?
RAY: The question is, what was the bad idea?

TOM: The bale of hay.

RAY: Exactly. Evidently, wet hay is an awful thing because when it gets wet, it bursts into flames. The water reacts with the hay and creates gas, which is combustible. So, any hay that gets wet is dangerous. Back in the old days, farmers used to rake the hay into rows and then pile it into haystacks and leave it out in the fields while it went through this fermentation gas release process.

The hay would sit out there and, if it caught fire, the barn wouldn't burn down. And then when the hay was safe, when the temperature had cooled off enough and the gaseous emissions had lessened, it was safe then to put the hay in the barn.

TOM: How do you know so much about hay?

RAY: I worked on a farm, you know.

TOM: Yeah, for about a week.

RAY: Three days. You know what I learned about hay? Hay's heavy. Doesn't look it, but hay's really heavy. Do we have a winner?

RAY: Yeah. The winner this week is Linda Lacey from Raleigh, North Carolina, and for having her answer selected at random from among all the correct answers that we got, Linda will get from us a 26-dollar gift certificate to the Shameless Commerce Division at cartalk.com, with which she can get a copy of our latest CD collection. This one's about animals and cars and it's called, in the immortal words of my brother, "Doesn't Anybody Screen These Calls? Calls about Cars and Animals." Congratulations, Linda.

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