Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Jan. 19, 2007

Wrap it up!

When husband Art and I were ordering lunch one day last week, he reached down for his wallet. A moment later, he exclaimed, "Look at this!"

The wallet and back pocket were still there - but the area next to it had a huge gash.

I asked when he had ripped them, but he didn't have a clue. He usually wears his pants until they're thread-bare anyway so it's not as if he didn't get good use out of them.

But later that same day, he announced he had repaired them - with duct tape. "I put the tape on the inside, of course," he added.

I laughed. Art has used duct tape for many repair jobs so I shouldn't have been surprised. It came in handy to hold pieces of Mariya's car together while the body cement was curing after she had an accident. He also used it to hold the trim on the front of my 1984 Cavalier after someone hit it going through a red light. In that case, even after the cement cured, he didn't take the tape off because it blended in with the silver color of the car.

Art also has used duct tape to secure plastic covers over our air conditioners, to keep the belt loops from tearing off his canteen holder when he goes trout fishing, to repair a cracked ax handle and who knows what else.

According to the Wikipedia Web site, the versatile tape was developed during World War II as a waterproof sealing tape for ammunition cases. Permacel, then a division of Johnson & Johnson, used a rubber-based adhesive to help the tape resist water and a fabric backing to facilitate ripping. It was also used to repair military equipment, including jeeps, guns and aircraft. The name "duct tape" came from its use as a sealer on heating and air conditioning ducts during the housing boom after the war. Professionals in many states are forbidden to use the tape in systems they install, but do-it-yourselfers are not.

Red Green, the ultimate do-it-yourselfer of "The Red Green Show" on PBS, refers to duct tape as "the handyman's secret weapon."

And people who camp, hunt, fish and participate in other outdoor activities depend on the tape, too. An assistant professor of emergency medicine at Stanford University writes and lectures about wilderness survival. His tips, which appeared in a Washington Post article, included using duct tape to make goggles to avoid snow-blindness; to prevent sunburn by placing strips of tape on your head; to prevent friction blisters by substituting it for moleskin pads; to stabilize an injured knee or ankle; to remove splinters, cactus stickers and caterpillar hairs; and to remove warts. Although the latter application has met with skepticism from the medical profession, the professor said he has used it on his son and claims it works.

But Art doesn't limit himself to duct tape. In addition to using clear packaging tape to seal packages he ships, he uses it to waterproof ordinary paper labels on electronic gear.

He's also found masking tape to be handy for purposes other than protecting adjacent areas when painting. Perhaps the most unusual application involved a bunch of wild cats. When we returned from vacation one year, we found that a cat had decided the woodpile in our garage was the perfect "nest" for her kittens. But every time we approached, they spat, growled and ran away. Once cornered, they demonstrated they already knew how to use their claws.

Art pondered the problem and decided he was going to tame them so we could find homes for them. He concluded that boredom would be the easiest method to break their fighting will. But first he had to catch them. So he waited one evening until the mother cat had them all in the garage and then he shut the door. With a thick pair of leather gloves to protect him from their claws, he caught them one by one. After each catch, he used masking tape to fasten their four legs together. That solved the problem of them running off or scratching him. He then set about making metal collars. He added some sections of chain and tethering points where they could not see each other. When he took the tape off, they tried to run away, but the chain stopped them. He put out water and food and just two days later they were as friendly as any house cat.

Years ago he also used that technique to trim his hairy dog. The pooch was an extremely nervous animal and every time Art approached with the electric trimmer, "Snuffy" would disappear under the car. But for some reason, with the masking tape around his legs, he calmed down completely.

His neighbor at the time was a vet who scoffed at Art's technique. So when Bill volunteered to trim Snuffy, Art took him up on the offer. But the vet had to resort to giving the dog a shot. When he was done, Bill said his curiosity had been satisfied and Art should do it in the future - with masking tape!

But tape has its limits, just like the lifetime of a pair of pants. That evening, Art tossed his ripped pants in the trash, commenting, "It's a wrap!"

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