Have you seen the kids’ book “Are We There Yet?” by Alison Lester? It’s a book about three kids who spend three months travelling around Australia with their parents in a camper trailer. We have a much-thumbed version, so much so that the cover that is starting to fall off. One of the things they do is “To make letters with our shadows on Murphy’s Haystack.”
As we were in Streaky Bay, we detoured to Murphy’s Haystacks, so we could see another of the places mentioned in the book. I’d expected that we’d be able to see the collection of rocks from some distance, rather like we’d watched Mt Connor, Kata Tjuta and Uluru gradually seem larger as they loomed in the distance. We actually could only see a few of them from the car park. There were a lot more than we’d expected, and they stretched out for quite a distance, in three main groups.
The kids were happy running and climbing up and down the rocks, but I couldn’t convince all four of them to make letters with their shadows on the rocks. I’d convince one or two, and then by the time I’d convinced another kid to join in, the first ones had already run off. I gave up.
The rocks are named Murphy’s Haystacks after the farmer, Mr Murphy, who owned the land in the 19th century. An Irish agricultural expert who praised the benefits of harrowing their fields to produce more hay. Seeing the large shapes in the distance, he told his fellow passengers and the driver of the horse and cart he was travelling in “that the farmer must harrow his field often to have such a large amount of hay”. Of course, it wasn’t haystacks that he had seen, but from then the misnomer stuck and the rock structures have been known as Murphy’s Haystacks.