Recently, I was involved in two business transactions. One was a very big deal, and the other one wasn’t. What struck me was the fact that the paperwork in-volved in both deals was about the same.
By that, I mean there were just as many whereases and wherefores and now therefores in the little deal as in the big deal. The papers I had to sign were festooned with just as many of those annoying little red cellophane arrows showing me where to sign or initial in the little deal as in the big deal.
I once read a story about a famous armaments manufacturer who had made weapons for the German military since Attila the Hun took the field. Near the end of World War II, the mighty Eighth U.S. Air Force had bombed all of the Krupp’s cannon factories to smithereens. They were no longer making so much as a BB gun. Yet, the volume of paperwork in the Berlin main office was unchanged.
However, the best example of the value of “paper” is illustrated by an incident that involved my paternal grandparents shortly after the end of World War II.
My grandfather was a farmer. He wasn’t a very good farmer, but events led him into that profession for the second half of his life. He started farming at the beginning of the Great Depression and, like all farmers during those hard times, he could grow plenty of good food for his family, but there was almost no cash.
He struggled along until the war years changed his circumstances for the better. With the need of the U.S. government to feed its military and civilian populations, farming became profitable again. What’s more, my grandfather landed a good job as a civilian carpenter at an Air Force base near his home. He had folding money again at last.
After the war ended, my grandfather decided to reinvest some of his money in his farm. He operated a small dairy, so he bought an expensive breeding bull to improve his dairy herd. This bold financial act brought him much attention in the small South Texas community where he lived, and my grandfather loved it.
One of his neighbors would see him in the post office and say, “Mr. Bush, was that a new bull I saw grazing in your south pasture yesterday?” My grandfather would stick out his chest, loop his thumbs through the shoulder straps of his overalls and exclaim proudly, “Yep, that there’s a pedigreed bull. I got the papers on him.” Or he might be in the barbershop and someone would say, “Mr. Bush, I heard you bought a new bull.” Again he would reply with relish, “Yep, that there’s a pedigreed bull. I got the papers on him.”
Then disaster struck. Veterinary medicine in the 1940s not being what it is today, the bull sickened and died. This was a terrible financial and personal blow to my grandfather. He (like his grandson) did not take disappointment well, which is a big reason why he should not have been a farmer. He lamented loud and long over his misfortune.
After what she considered an appropriate mourning period for a defunct bovine, my grandmother had had enough. Now, dear reader, you must understand that my grandmother was a very different person from her husband. She was a witty, intelligent woman who looked life right in the eye … no flinching.
The daughter of a brush arbor Baptist preacher, she, like the protagonist in Kipling’s poem, could “meet with triumph or disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.”
Anyway, one evening after supper as my grandfather started tuning up for yet another wail about his bad luck, family mythology has it that my grandmother went over to him, put her arms around his shoulders and said, “Oh, don’t carry on so, Winfred. We still have the papers.”
– Dave Bush, Lubbock, Texas