Are Crystal Balls Overrated?

Carroll Smith
Carroll Smith

The origin of the crystal ball is most often attributed to the Celtic Druids, an ancient group of educated people purported to be from Gaul, a region in Western Europe. It’s hard to distinguish truth from myth when it comes to Druids because their history is anecdotal in nature.

However, the crystal ball has survived the ages and continues to symbolize a means for divining the future. It appears in books, movies and even as a crude painting on signs touting “Fortune Teller — $5” posted next to dilapidated trailers along rural highways.

Journalists — myself included — are guilty of conjuring up the orb’s image especially at the beginning of a new year. “If you look into your crystal ball, what do you predict….?” As if foreseeing the future is that simple. And, if it were, do you really want to know exactly what it holds?

The mystery, the not knowing, is what makes life exciting. It energizes and motivates us to make the best decisions we can in hopes of influencing the outcome in a positive way. The reality is we don’t always hit a home run, and sometimes the outcome is disappointing. But if we do our homework and give it our best shot, the measure of self-satisfaction we achieve makes it all worthwhile.

One of the most important decisions cotton farmers make before the new season begins is variety selection. Cotton seed companies across the Cotton Belt take the germplasm with which they have to work and develop varieties designed to help producers get the most bang for their buck at the end of the season. It’s up to the producer, along with his cotton consultant and seed rep — not a crystal ball — to choose the ones that best fit his operation’s unique environment.

And Mother Nature is a wild card who trumps the orb every time. No person, and certainly not a ball of glass, can predict her whims. If a drought, hurricane or damaging, unexpected rain is in the future, then that is part of the mystery of the season.

Your job is to choose varieties that fit the soils, weed spectrum and historical weather data on your farm to the best of your ability. And, yes, keep that $5 in your pocket when you are tempted by the lure of the colorful sign spotted on the side of the highway.

If you have comments, please send them to: Cotton Farming Magazine, 7201 Eastern Ave., Germantown, TN, 38138. Contact Carroll Smith via email at

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