Maybe you haven’t, but I bet you’re wondering now, so I’d like to start today’s column with a little quiz.
A cow chip is something that you . . .
a. buy at the grocery store
b. sprinkle on tortilla soup
c. flip into a cup in the game tiddlywinks
d. toss at throwing competitions
l There are many types of chips that line the shelves of grocery stores, but cow chips aren’t one of them.
l For some people, the tastiest parts of tortilla soup are the curly strips of tortilla chips that float on top. These delicious morsels are not made from cow chips.
l Tiddlywinks is an old-fashioned game where competitors press a quarter-size flat disk on the edge of a dime-size flat disk (a wink) to try to flip the wink into a cup.
l A cow chip is a dried pile of cow dung that is used at cow-chip-throwing competitions. Chips are often tossed Frisbee-style. They can fly more than 150 feet!
When a cow poops, what comes out is a gooey, medium-brown substance that has the consistency of chocolate pudding. It doesn’t smell like chocolate pudding, of course. Assuming the cow poops on a firm surface such as a pasture or a barn floor, the poop will hit the ground and spread into a disklike shape. If you ever watched your mom or dad make pancakes, you will get an idea of how a cow chip is born. Just as pancake batter cooks in a frying pan, a cow chip dries out under the sun.
Cow dung has lots of uses. It is rich in nitrogen and replenishes nutrients in the soil that crops need to grow. In the past, cow chips were burned and used as a fuel the way we burn logs in a fireplace today. In poor regions of the world, fresh cow dung is spread on straw huts to strengthen them.
Although children have undoubtedly been playing with cow chips for hundreds of years, this pastime has become a competition for grown-ups. Today, cow-chip-tossing contests are held in many locations across the Midwest. However, it’s Beaver, Oklahoma, that calls itself the “Cow Chip Throwing Capital of the World.”
Every April, Beaver sponsors the annual World Championship Cow Chip Throw. The competition dates back to 1970 and supposedly attracts competitors from around the world.
So the next time your parents ask you to lay off the “potty humor,” remind them that some adults have taken it to another level entirely.
Bennett, a Washington pediatrician, is the author of “Harry Goes to the Hospital.”