It’s in the Smoke

“Ruminant manure constituted an important factor in American settlement on the Plains, providing fuel for heat and cooking in the near total absence of wood or coal, and serving as a medical specific for injuries and medical complaints ranging from the reattachment of severed members and snake bite to hiccups and sunburn.”

“Travelers on the Plains, European Americans and Native Americans alike, erected cairns of buffalo chips to serve as landmarks. As a fuel, cow and buffalo chips offered the advantage of not throwing sparks into bedding or clothing, which was especially important in military tents and tipis.”

One early settler reported, “Don’t feel sorry for us cooking with cow chips. They had their advantages– didn’t need to use pepper.”

It may have been Tom Robbins that once suggested that cooking with buffalo chips changed brain function. Instead of focusing on the burned pancakes, the thought was, “Go West!” And west they went, only to find and burn more buffalo chips. They continued west until there were no buffalo chips, just the Pacific Ocean.

I wish I could remember the exact book. It sounds like something Tom Robbins would write. It was funny at the time. Imagine that the smoke would induce a thought, or perhaps it was induced by the eating of small microbes. Go West, indeed!

Then I remember the Cat Lady theories.

“Toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease caused by Toxoplasma gondii. Infections with toxoplasmosis usually cause no obvious symptoms in adults. … The parasite is only known to reproduce sexually in the cat family.”

Jaroslav Flegr is the Czech biologist that suggests that the parasite can cause unique brain activity, causing increased traffic accidents, schizophrenia, and other problems with auto-immune issues. By conjecture, the parasite wants the host to die so a cat will eat it, and the parasite will complete it’s sexual cycle. Wonderfully complex, and just too weird to be true.

Still, it nags at the back of my brain. What if it is true? What if buffalo chip smoke keeps you headed west? What if copper smelting fumes changes your brain chemistry into experimenting with more metals, thereby creating bronze, iron and eventually steel. It would explain a lot of things.

Of course it is the height of lunacy to think that mere smoke can alter the way the brain thinks.

About johndiestler

Retired community college professor of graphic design, multimedia and photography, and chair of the fine arts and media department.
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