“Well this,” she said, “just chaps my hide.”

Full disclosure: There may be a rant coming here. In fact there may be several. At the very least, what’s going on in my head is what might be called “stream of consciousness.”

That’s a rather innocuous phrase, until we examine the components. I’ll ignore the “of,” a preposition that’s hardly worth its own dissertation. You can’t really appreciate prepositions unless you are old enough to have diagrammed sentences in English class or have read the delightful little book Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog, a history and examination of the diagramming of sentences.

But “stream”: Now there’s a word worth reckoning with, particularly if you live, as I do, with a “stream.” The Big Elk is, at some times of the year, a gentle little trickle that murmurs over mossy rocks and smooth round stones. It gives a home to crawdads (crayfish to you purists out there) and children of all ages interested in the art of skipping stones and wading. At other times of the year, however, it roars along with loud crashing, carrying 2-ton logs, lawn chairs, plastic buckets, and any other detritus that some human was careless enough to leave within its reach. A powerful word, “stream.”

And “consciousness”: A concept that’s getting a lot of play right now, mostly because for all of our scientific advancement, no one really knows what it is. For a long, long time, science argued that only humans are conscious. Now, setting egos aside, it would appear that consciousness exists across the animal world and possibly across the plant world as well. There are days that I would argue that even the stones here are conscious.

But all of this has little to do with my subject line, which is a direct quote from my daughter. She was confronting her freshman-English teacher about the amount of homework assigned in her Catholic high school.

When I heard the story, I was stunned, not because she talked back to a teacher (I would expect no less of any child that grew up in our house) but because of what she said. I’d never heard the phrase before, but it seemed so summarily appropriate to the situation that I was breathless in admiration.

“Chaps my hide”: This is the poetry of the American west, of cowboys and wranglers. It speaks of things so grating that we can only compare them to skin rubbed raw. But where in the world did my 14-year-old city slicker hear this expression? I still don’t know.

But I’ve never forgotten it, even though nearly two decades have passed. And there are, frankly, a lot of things that chap my hide.

First and foremost on my mind this evening is packaging. If is seems like I spend a lot of time worrying about packaging, it’s because I do. Reduce, reuse, recycle. I can reuse. I can recycle. But it feels as if I have very little control over the “reduction” of trash.

I could, of course, refuse to buy anything that’s packaged inappropriately. I’d be a lot richer financially if I did, because it seems as if these days almost everything is packaged inappropriately.

This rant was set off in part by trying to open various packages of things today.

I am a strong person, particularly for someone of the “female persuasion.” I have a lot of upper body strength especially. Some years back, when Ben had a broken foot, I decided to mow the lawns because they were getting rather shaggy. At the time we lived in a house that had only a wealth of parking strips (corner lot) and a postage-stamp back yard. So we had only a couple of the old rotary push mowers. They did a wonderful job, used no fuel except burned calories, and emitted no excess carbon.

But the grass was rather long, because it took me awhile to recognize that Ben probably wasn’t going to mow the lawn right away. So I went out to do it. That afternoon, I stripped the gears on not one but two old rotary mowers by trying to power my way through the long grass.

The lawn-mower repairman said he’d never seen anything like it in 60 years in the business. But it did have one felicitous result: I was forbidden to ever mow the lawn again.

What does this have to do with packaging? Just this: I am sick and tired of “easy open” packages that I cannot open without the assistance of heavy kitchen shears. Either they refuse to tear at all or they suddenly tear and explode ingredients all over my kitchen. Enough.

Especially since then I have to dispose of all that packaging. It made me mad opening it. It’s making me madder throwing it away. It frankly chaps my hide. . .

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2 Responses to ““Well this,” she said, “just chaps my hide.””

  1. ingernet Says:

    at the risk of ruining the mystery, i can hypothesize that i learned the phrase from either my grandfather, or from one of the 8000 books in the basement library. have fun gallivanting!

  2. Marianne Says:

    Inger, unless you were reading Ben’s Louis L’Amour collection, I can’t buy either of those suggestions. . .

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