Under the Wire
August 5, 2020
Years ago, a wonderfully cranky old lady, Clara Petter, became famous for asking the question, “Where’s the Beef?” After years of well-known TV and movie stars proclaiming the virtues of my favorite main course, “Where’s the Beef” still ranks high in our memories.
With all due respect to Clara and admittedly also without her permission if she is still with us, I am going to plagiarize her with a new, more relevant question, “Where’s the Toilet Paper?” I must admit, after writing “Under The Wire” for nearly 35 years, cranking out over 1,600 columns, I have never included the words “toilet paper” in one, let alone have it be the entire subject of a column.
As the horrible Covid-19 pandemic rages on, one subject has claimed national prominence, TP not cans of Denny Moore Beef Stew, sacks of pinto beans or my mainstay for existence, ketchup. The world now is occupied with the pursuit of, not happiness, but toilet paper. Add to this phenomenon the outburst of binge shopping or hoarding as some call it.
I am constantly amazed as life rolls along, how old ideas and customs keep popping up as new concepts.
Years ago, when most in agriculture lived far from towns on homesteads or remote ranches, a trip to town was rare and a pretty big undertaking. Weeks of planning went into assembling a list of food and necessities that would last several months in some instances. Enter the first recorded hoarding activities. Then, however, it was called stocking up. The list was obviously different with no frozen veggies or TV dinners. Absent also were packages of cookies, potato chips and instant anything, replaced by baking soda, lard and big bags of beans, flour, the flour sacks later to become a dress for the lady of the house plus anything else the farm or ranch didn’t grow themselves. Talk about binge shopping. Even in my later entry into the activity as a small boy, we made the trip in the pickup and hoped we could get it all on it.
Since the Chinese are credited with the invention of paper, it would follow they also invented toilet paper. Nobody cared, though, because most farms in those early days grew corn and its byproduct corn cobs.
I am happy to report I missed that part of history. Very happy. Over the years, I had occasion to handle corn cobs in the course of feeding my grandfather’s pigs and a few cattle on a whole grain ration. Without going into details, just let me say, I am happy the Chinese invented paper. If nothing else when it began appearing as mail order catalogs, it served a dual-purpose role for many a rural family.
Come to think of it, we never threw away a Sears catalog. Guess we were hoarding even then.