Please Pass the Cow Chips

By Howard J. Bennett

I’d like to start today’s column with a little quiz.

Cow chips are 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.

Wrong Answers

• There are many types of chips that line the shelves of grocery stores, but cow chips aren’t one of them.

• 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.

• Tiddlywinks is an old fashioned game where competitors press a quarter-sized, flat disk (the squidger) on the outside edge of a dime-size flat disk (the wink) to flip the wink into a cup. Cow chips have nothing to do with this game.

Correct Answer

• A cow chip is a dried out pile of cow dung that is used at cow chip throwing competitions. Cow chips are thrown, hurled or 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, the poop will hit the ground and spread out into a disk-like 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 heat of the sun.

Cow dung has lots of uses. Like other types of manure, it is rich in nitrogen and replenishes nutrients in soil that crops need to grow. In the past, cow chips were burned and used as a fuel because they were not only abundant, but also produced an odorless, smokeless heat. In poor regions of the world, fresh cow dung is spread on the outside of 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 grownups. 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 visitors and competitors from around the world. Here are some of the rules of the competition:

• Contestants must be 16 years of age or older.

• Cow chips are at least 6 inches in diameter and cannot be altered by the contestant.

• Each contestant gets two throws.

• Women and men compete separately.

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.

© 2012 Howard J. Bennett. All Rights Reserved.
(First published in the Washington Post 4/17/11.)

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