Haycox came to the University of Oregon in 1920, where he majored in journalism, wrote for the Oregon Daily Emerald, the yearbook, and the campus humor magazine, Lemon Punch. He studied short story writing under W.F.G. Thacher, and repeatedly submitted tales to national magazines. One year he cleaned out a shack behind his fraternity house and spent his nights there writing—with three of the hut's walls papered with rejection slips. In 1922 he placed his first paying story for $30. By graduation in 1923, he had sold six or seven more. "You know, it's not exactly a natural pursuit, a man putting himself in front of a typewriter—a machine—day after day," he said in 1945. "But you've got to spend three or four years digging yourself a rut so deep that finally you find it more convenient not to get out of it."