An old high school friend who I am happy to have reconnected with through Facebook is a cattle farmer in East Texas. Now I am not here to get into a discussion on the difference between a cattle farmer and rancher. Some would say there is a difference, that people who raise cattle are ranchers. Others would say half-a-dozen of two and screw the other 10. Nevertheless, Bobby raises longhorn cattle and does so on his cattle farm.
My friend wrote that a limb snapped while he was clearing a fence row, causing some barbed wire to puncture a vein in his arm. His first aid consisted of wrapping it in a bandanna and using duct tape for a bandage. I wrote Bobby that one time I had a similar mishap. My friend Waldo and I was fencing some 200-something acres of his country land up in Cherokee County, Texas, one summer. The barbed wire snapped from the spool and poked me with one of its barbs right into my right-armed median vein. I think that’s what the vein is called. It is the one opposite your elbow. The one in might right arm is fairly prominent and has always drawn positive comments from the many nurses and phlebotomists who have poked the vein for assorted reasons over the years.
I had nothing practical that day to stop the bleeding except my shirt. We were out in the middle of the country and I was hot and sweaty. It was no big deal. I’m pretty certain some duct tape was around somewhere in Waldo’s truck. But it never occurred to me to wrap it around my shirt for a bandage. I think I was still licensed as an emergency medical technician back then, though I wasn’t a “practicing” one. Still, why I didn’t think of using duct tape to stop my oozing, red blood is beyond me.
Maybe I was not, back in the day, fully bought into the duct tape culture. That would come in time, when I first started in the newspaper business.
My beginning newspaper job was in a small East Texas town at an equally small circulation newspaper. We had not yet started using personal computers for all of our varied tasks. I used a weird-looking box with a tiny screen, or video display terminal, as a word processor. The text was then copied onto a floppy disk. I think the disk was known as a “5 1/4-inch minifloppy.” The hell if I know.
The disk was later put into a machine which printed the “cold type” or text that would be pasted up on a dummy sheet. Eventually a camera-ready page was produced, and turned into a plate for the presses. The rest is history and more work, work, work.
This machine which printed out the text was huge and worn-looking. It appeared as if it would fall apart any minute. But my publisher wasn’t about to let that happen. He would seem to magically appear out of nowhere with his handy roll of duct tape and patch up that or any machine in need of adhesion. His prolific use of duct tape even became a thing of legend with the staff. Each year during the Christmas party he would get a nicely-adorned package in which the supposed “gift” turned out to be duct tape.
I have since learned myriad uses for perhaps the handiest man-made item in existence next to the flush toilet. I have even seen flush toilets patched up with duct tape. I have seen duct tape used for Halloween costumes. I personally use duct tape to patch my steering wheel.
If the Wikipedia entry on “duck tape” and its evolution into “Ductape” is to be believed then it is a rather interesting story. The wonderful tape is certainly an interesting item and one of many uses. I wouldn’t hesitate to say that duct tape has probably saved lives at some time or the other. But please remember, if you plan on using duct tape as a bandage some day be sure and have something non-adhesive for use as a dressing. Do this because, if duct tape can hold half the earth together, it will as likely relieve you of hair and perhaps a layer of skin.
Powerful stuff, that duct tape.