2010.04.07 The rite of flaming tissue

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

The weather gets nice and springy; I get good and sick. I remember this happening many times in the past, but  that was probably when I was a typical kid who saw the sunny day and figured it must be warm out—even though it was almost back to winter and I needed a coat and hat.

That wasn’t the case this time. I don’t know what it was. A sort throat arrived that soon slid into aching sinuses and then chills and fever and finally it just emptied out into a cold.

I gargled hot salt water a few minutes ago—probably the third time in two days—and went through the routine of gargling a song. I wish I’d have kept track of my choices over the years.

I don’t even remember what I chose a few minutes except for the final tune. I was gargling “My Baby Does the Hanky-Panky” by Tommy James and the Shondells. I got to the part where it takes big jump up the scale and I swallowed a little salt water and gagged but didn’t lose dinner.

It was at that point when I knew for sure I would be heading to the archives to look for an old column to run this week.


The Rite of Flaming Tissue

April 4, 1990


The trees around my house were papered Saturday night, but you wouldn’t have known it the next morning except for the telltale ashes blowing across the yard.

I’m sure you’re familiar with this American pastime that began back around the turn of the century. In her book, “The History of Things in Trees,” Charmin Twoply describes children wadding up pages from a Sears & Roebuck catalog and throwing them into the branches of a hated school teacher.

In its contemporary practice, rolls of toilet paper are thrown repeatedly through trees to create the effect of giant white jellyfish quivering in the night breeze. When done properly, especially under moonlight, it truly is beautiful.

I’ve never papered anyone before. Never. It’s not that I had this mess coming to me for past sins. I’ve witnessed the results many times since I live across the street from a pair of high school teachers. I knew my time would arrive some day, but I figured it would be several years down the road when Ben was in high school.

We returned home early Saturday night from a restaurant meal, part of the continuing celebration of Rosanna’s fourth birthday. In trade for cheerfully going out to dinner, I was allowed to run off to the office for a while to dig out of a deepening hole of work.

Before my time was up, Colleen called to tell me that papering was occurring even as she spoke on the phone, and that now the paperers were knocking on the door.

“I suppose you would like me to come home,” I said.

There was a pause, then she answered, “Wait, they’re singing happy birthday to Rosie. I better hang up.”

I finished the project I was working on and walked out into the darkness to face the litter. There it was—front yard, side yard, back yard. There was even an array of plastic forks stuck into the flower bed in front. That must be some regional variant to papering of which I wasn’t aware.

The front door was locked and a huge refrigerator box blocked the view into the hallway. I let myself in and was bombarded by paper airplanes. I’m sure it was the two four-year-olds in the crowd that did the most damage outside, surely not their parents nor the the other adults present.

Someone asked how the tissue was to be cleaned up and another jokingly suggested burning it down. The delinquents arose and moved outside with matches.

Only some startled neighbors and a few passersby witnessed this remarkable spectacle of flaming toilet paper slowly burning upward to the trees. I tried to remain calm and thought about the details of my home insurance. If only Charmin Twoply was alive today to add this chapter to her book.

Kids, please listen to me—do not attempt this at home. Do it at someone else’s house, and first check for a nearby fire hydrant. Don’t wrap tissue around any tree from the pine family and never perform the Rite of Flaming Tissue during the dry season.

  • Front.little Ball
    Fayette's Demetrious Whiteside (left)Skylar Lester attempt to keep the ball from going out of bounds during Morenci's recent basketball tournament for fourth and fifth grade teams. Morenci's Andrew Schmidt stands by.
  • Front.tug
    MORENCI pep rallies generally end with a tug of war. The senior class entry, shown above, did not advance to the finals. Griffin Grieder, Alaina Webster, Kyle Long and Jazmin Smith are shown at the front of the rope, giving it their best effort.
  • Accident
    FAYETTE resident Patricia Stambaugh, 64, was declared dead on the scene of a single-vehicle accident Friday morning south of Morenci. Rescue units were called around 9 a.m., but as of Tuesday, law enforcement officers had not yet determined the time of the accident. According to Ohio State Highway Patrol, Stambaugh was driving west on U.S. 20 when her Chevrolet Malibu traveled off the north side of the road and down a steep embankment, coming to rest in Bean Creek (Tiffin River).
  • Athletic Fields
    SPORTS COMPLEX—Fayette’s outdoor athletic facilities will include three ball fields for summer recreation leagues at the southwest corner of the school. The baseball and softball fields, along with the running track, will be constructed on the east side of the school. Outdoor athletic fields were not part of the new school project from 2007, but voters approved a $1.4 million levy for a school addition and the sports fields last August. Both projects are scheduled to be complete by July 20.
  • Front.teacher Leading
    PRESCHOOL MUSIC—Fayette band director Jeffrey Dunford spends the last half hour of the day leading the full-day preschool class in musical activities. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.F.band
    TROMBONISTS Jake Myers (left) and Max Baker perform Friday at the annual Senior Citizens Luncheon at Fayette High School. The National Honor Society and the FFA chapter teamed up to serve a meal to area seniors and to provide musical entertainment. Both the school band and choir performed. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.

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