In tradition of the wild, wild West
Cowboys of the old West branded their cattle so no one would take them.
If you think branding is extinct, however, look around. You’ll find modern-day cowboys and cowgirls everywhere.
For example, I work with this otherwise normal person who chews the caps of her ink pens until they become disfigured. She doesn’t do it because it tastes good.
She was having trouble with people rustling her pens until she started chewing the caps. Now everyone is too disgusted to touch them.
Children do this all the time with food. Only one chicken leg survives in the bucket, so little junior picks it up, licks it and returns it to the bucket for later enjoyment.
He puts his brand on it.
At our house, competition for the last or best piece of food can be fierce. It usually starts in the morning with a fight over who gets the middle cinnamon roll.
In case you aren’t wise in the ways of the cinnamon roll, the middle roll is a much-coveted item.
It rises to its full potential all the way around. It is soft on the outer edges. It catches a full complement of icing.
Yes, the middle cinnamon roll is a sweet thing of glazed beauty.
Getting the middle cinnamon roll, however, is anything but sweet. It’s a cutthroat venture much like a hostile corporate takeover. You have to put in your bid loud and early.
“I get the middle!” is the common refrain.
To pull off the deal, the bidder often resorts to branding.
We’re trying to encourage our children to be bigger people. We hope they’ll someday share food as freely as they share insults.
Meanwhile, our only consolation is knowing that branding plagues many households even after children grow older.
Why else would teenagers take scissors and cut holes in a perfectly good pair of jeans unless they were trying to discourage someone else from taking them?
Branding is the only logical explanation.
Branding can continue into adulthood.
I once knew a college professor who believed a particular parking spot belonged to him. It was not marked or officially reserved, but all the faculty knew it was his and they did not dare take it.
One night, a few friends and I dragged a Dumpster into the parking space and posted a sign on it: “Reserved for Dr. Powley.”
We just wanted to make it official.
Scott Morris is managing editor.