Teasel

Els Baars

A long, long time ago someone knocked on the door of a small rickety cottage. Surprised at having visitors at such a late hour, the inhabitant of this very humble dwelling opened the door. In front of him stood two travel-worn men. The shorter of the two asked: “O kind sir, would you have a place for two tired travelers to rest our weary bones for the night?  Being a hospitable soul, he invited the strangers in and shared his scant supply of food with them and made space for them to sleep in his small home. The travelers stayed for a few days so that his already meager food supply was finished.

On the third evening, the poor man felt ashamed when he apologized to his guests: “I would like to be hospitable, but I am only a poor man. Unfortunately, I can offer you, my guests, no more meals. All the food there was has been eaten. I can only suggest that you knock on the door of my neighbor. He is a rich man. “ But at the door of the rich neighbor’s white stone house, the travelers were given a few coins.

The two men went on their way. From behind their windows, both the rich and the poor man watched how the travelers walked off down the dusty track and then they saw how the two suddenly turned into two angels and came back to the houses. The angels gave the poor man a small packet of seeds and the rich man a larger packet of seeds. With great expectations, both men immediately scattered the seeds on their land and waited excitedly to see what would grow from these heavenly seeds.

The inhospitable man saw how beautiful flowers grew from his seeds. But they only flowered for one day. “These flowers aren’t only no good for selling,” he said angrily, “but they also grow like weeds and smother all my other crops.” Within a few years, he was a poor man.

The hospitable man was also disappointed: “My good angels, why have I been given these seeds?” They only produce tall thistles with prickly spikes. What can I do with them? The flowers aren’t even beautiful to look at, and the spikes have these strange layers of small blue flowers.”

One night he saw the two angels again in his dreams, and they gave him a message: “Load the thistle heads into your card and sell them at the market in the town to the sheep farmers. Tell them that these will make carding their wool a far easier task.”  The next day the man set off brimming with expectation, and a cart loaded high with prickly flower heads to the big market. To his amazement, he returned home that evening with a lot of money in his pocket. So within a few years, he became a rich man. Ever since then sheep farmers have carded wool with these flower heads which people commonly refer to as card teasels.