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I think our favorite eldest grandson, Grant, must have been about 12-years old year when he spent most of his summer with us on the farm. Since he was a growing lad with a voracious appetite, I thought it would be a very smart thing to keep him gainfully employed by helping me hoe peanuts. In retrospect, I am not real sure about the economics of that decision, as the more he worked, the more he ate.
On one occasion I call to mind, we had only been in the field a short time when Grant said, "Granddad, I need to go to the house."

I said, "We've only been here about an hour. Are you feeling bad?"

"Well, no, Granddad, I just need to go to the bathroom."

I said, "You haven't worked long enough to get dirty, you can surely wait to wash up until we quit."

"Granddad, that's not it. You see, I need to use the bathroom."

"Oh, well, in that case, we are out in the middle of the field, no one in sight, just cut loose."

"Granddad, you still don't understand; I need to do a Number 2!"

"Number 2? Well, I guess I know what you mean, only we didn't call it Number 2.  But never mind, you can walk over to the edge of the field where that bush is growing, and you will be out of sight of anybody, and you can go ahead and do your Number 2 or whatever you want to call it."

"But Granddad, I don't have any bathroom tissue."

"No bathroom tissue? You mean toilet tissue?"
I don't even remember what we called it in my day.  Maybe something to wipe with. "For goodness sake, Grant, what do you think the Indians used when they had to, well, as you say, do a Number 2?"  Only I am sure they didn't call it that either; they used anything that came to hand, what else? 
I took him home. I guess he could have demanded that I provide a portable facility. All of which set my wandering mind to wondering. In this enlightened age when the airways are saturated with four-letter words, why this strange reticence in regard to the plumbing facilities of the human body, extending even to the plumbing facilities the human body uses when in need of plumbing facilities?  For example: "His and Hers" probably with the ever increasing demands for equal rights, a third facility may have to be provided marked "Theirs". Then there are those "cute" signs, "Cowboys and Cowgirls," "Men and Women" and generally just the silhouette of a man and a woman in the respective places, which can be confusing nowadays with so many of the female gender wearing trousers.

We used to call them "Outhouses".  Maybe we should now call them "Inhouses".  Even the military got into the act with "Latrines". As many times as I pulled "Latrine Duty" while in the service, it seems they should have given me special training in that subject instead of aircraft mechanics.

And, when the nurse hands you a bottle and tells you to go to the bathroom and get a specimen, everybody knows what she wants you to put in the bottle.  So, why can't she save time and use the four-letter word, or to save more time use the three-letter word?

Why ask where the "bath" room or  "rest" room is when we don't intend to bathe or rest? In this day and age when we believe in calling a spade a spade unless we are calling it a shovel, why do we use the terminology "bathroom tissue" when everybody knows you don't use the tissue to bathe with?  Reverting to the title of this subject, since the catalogs mentioned are no longer available, why not go back to basics; namely, "corncobs?"  I respectfully and seriously submit that restoring the use of corncobs in place of toilet or bathroom tissue would have the end result of providing a supplemental income for the growers of corn, and possibly at the  same time, reduce the price of Cornflakes, cornbread, grits, and other products derived from corn.  And, I once read the statistics of how many acres of standing timber are harvested each year - several thousand, I think just for the production of "bath tissue" - all or part of which could be used to build homes for the homeless.

Or perhaps even more urgent, this new venture would help to save the Spotted Owl. The environmentalist should back this movement 100%. And whereas there is no way the toilet tissue can be recycled, corncobs can and should be used for garden litter, adding both humus and fertilizer to the soil.

The Agriculture Extensive Service could be enlisted and their efforts expanded to not only produce better and more productive corn, but also to develop better varieties of corncobs, such as softer, more squeezable varieties, with perhaps miniature varieties for children. I can hardly wait to enlist the aid of our gifted County Agent, Bob Whitney, in this enterprise as well as Chip Lee. I tell you, the possibilities are endless.

Take for example, this could correct our Foreign Trade Deficit. For each bushel of corn we could sell the Chinese, think of how many corncobs we might sell them. (When you think of how many billion Chinese there are, the potential is staggering.)  If you think this idea is worth backing, write your Congressman. It might even help him balance the budget.

Please believe me when I say I am not naive enough to think the American people will either turn somersaults or turn end-over-end in joy to accept this - not really an innovative idea - but rather an appeal to the general public, to eschew the soft life we have become so accustomed to and begin once again to "rough it" as the earlier settlers of our great nation did.
  • First thing, the use of "toilet tissue" must be declared illegal, and anyone caught using such tissue should be subject to severe penalties.
  • How can such a law be enforced, since there would never be any witnesses? Very simply by declaring it illegal to manufacture such products.
  • How can such a law be passed? By appealing to our Nation's leaders that this is the most environmentally sound movement to not only save the Spotted Owl but at the same time preserve the Rain Forest. Once we convince the environmentalists of the importance of this great crusade half the battle will be won.
  • But, you may well ask, "What about human rights?"  When has human rights been considered where the Spotted Owl and the Rain Forest were at stake? This will be an ideal project for Vice President Al Gore to take charge of.
  • But what about the Congress, our elected representatives of the people? When they realize the great potential for extra income from taxes on corncobs there will be bipartisan wholehearted support. 

Remember corn is on one end of the political spectrum, and as a good is not directly taxable, but the corncob on the other end of the political spectrum is taxable.  For the same reason, all our state governments, "smelling a new source of sales taxes" will hastily jump on the bandwagon lest they be on the tail end of the procession.

Of course there will be some problems, however I don't foresee any serious public resistance to the program.  After all, in our lifetime we have become accustomed to taking orders and to the feeling that those who govern know what is best for us. Nevertheless, l am sure the corncob growers will need to establish their very own Commodity Association with a Corncob PAC in order to sway our elected representatives to vote the way we pay them to. Then we will have to expect Corncob Allotments, based probably on a given number of cobs to a bushel of corn, which will of course, be calculated on the basis of the ratio of cob to corn, depending on the variety of corn. 

Also, be prepared to face the fact that the corncob grower will not be permitted to save their own corncobs, either for personal use or to sell or give to a needy neighbor, as all corncobs will have to go into a pool (wrong terminology), they would go into a crib to be rationed or apportioned according to domestic and export needs. And, of course, there will be a two-price loan price, which we have become accustomed to in another commodity. 

Have I left something out?  Plenty. Publicity. We will need to hire male and female movie stars, each holding up their favorite brand of corncob, and solely for the sake of good publicity and hopefully without pay, a picture of the President and First Lady each holding up their favorite kind of corncob. If all this sounds too farfetched and extreme and complicated, just remember you will be doing your part to save the Spotted Owl, preserve the Rain Forest, balance the budget, restore the balance of trade, and pay off the national debt, a small price indeed to pay for any discomfort we the American Public might incur.  After all, the end justifies the means, or is it the means justify the end. Whatever.

Printed in The Messenger magazine, March/April 1997