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Monday, November 1, 2010

How Do They Do That?

Recently I went to Wal-Mart to get refills for my pen. Glancing over I noticed a small stapler in a blister-pack. I like the small-size stapler, it takes up less space on my cluttered desk and most of my stapling is 2-3-4 sheets of paper. For more pages I use the larger American-made staples. It was a bright orange color that caught my eye. Then I noticed the price, $1.82 plus tax. I thought that might be a mistake, but there were 6 or 8 on the peg at that price. The pack included a box of 1,000 staples. The brand was “Swingline.” I splurged and bought the stapler.

The next time I worked at TEAM, I opened the package, which sometimes is a challenge. Sometimes the ladies that I work with bring me their blister packs to open.

The top and bottom were orange and the base was gray. Front to back was 2 ½ inches and height was 2 inches. There were five separate metal pieces plus the spring and the 1,000 staples, two pieces of cardboard printed in colors and the clear plastic container, all for $1.82 and tax.

I visualized the stapler being made from one of my previous cars or trucks. The vehicle might have been taken to the Houston Ship Channel area, crushed and put into a cargo ship which sailed through the Panama Canal and then to China, was loaded on a train and taken to a smelter furnace. The metal was then rolled into large rolls and shipped to the Swingline factory. There it was rolled thinner, punched into its five parts and nickel-plated. The spring was made from a spool of wire, tempered, plated and formed. The plastic may have been made from soybeans raised by my relatives in Nebraska. The cardboard may have been made from the newspapers and cardboard I take to the church recycle bin. The ink may have been made at one of the Channel industries. After assembly the staplers were boxed, put into a large container, placed on a railroad flatcar, taken to the seaport, and put on a container ship going to the West Coast. Here the container was placed on a train going to Bentonville, Arkansas, unloaded and placed in a truck going to Tomball, unloaded and placed on the peg at Wal-Mart, all for $1.82 and tax.

How do they do that?

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Ben the Cook

Ben the Cook
Action shot from the 1970s



I recently made Tuna Helper, following the instructions on the box and adding margine, milk, etc. Priscilla and I had generous portions for lunch. When she asked about my recipe, I pointed to the kitchen table where the box was sitting...and only then noticed the unopened can of tuna sitting next to the empty box.

Well, we enjoyed our macaroni & cheese lunch and already have the tuna on hand to make another box of Helper.


I watched the TV news show "The Eyes of Texas" for years. When in the mid 1980s they announced the publication of a Texas cookbook I wrote down my grandmother's honey cookie recipe. I asked Priscilla to type it, and she mailed it along with several of her personal favorites.

When the book was published Priscilla's recipes were not included but mine was, with a special mention in the cookbook's introduction. I was invited to the signing in Houston, where I got all three of the main Eyes of Texas contributors to sign the front and while standing in line got a number of contributing cooks to sign their recipe pages.

Some might consider the description "somewhat chewy" an understatement. For those who are dentally impaired, I recommend soaking a cookie in milk or hot coffee before trying to chew it. The good news is, these cookies will keep indefinitely.

Eyes of Texas Cookbook introduction:
My great-grandparents August and Caroline Weiss operated the first cotton gin operated by steam, near Salem in Washington County, Texas. They were among the first German settlers in that area. Money was scarce; however, they always had bees and native pecans...consequently, this recipe was a favorite.

1 1/2 pints honey, warmed
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
Dash of salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans or other nuts
1 tsp. baking powder
Enough flour for a very stiff dough

Mix all ingredients well. Roll dough out on a floured board and cut with a cookie cutter, or drop the dough in a greased pan and flatten with a floured glass. Bake at 325 degrees until golden brown, with edges slightly darker. These cookies will be somewhat chewy.

Ben's Bio

I was born in Rose Hill, Texas in 1925 and at age 18 drafted into the Army. After my discharge I settled in Tomball, which although a small town had more opportunities than Rose Hill. I ran my own appliance installation and repair business for many years and in 1977 accepted a position as Plant Engineer and Director of Maintenance at Tomball Regional Hospital, where I worked until retirement in the late 1980s. In the 1970s I served two years on Tomball’s City Council, was elected mayor and served for six years during which major streets were paved and guttered, utility lines were extended, and a new jail and city hall were built. After retirement from the hospital I spent time on a genealogy project that included two trips to Germany to visit relatives and look up archival records. I have also gotten into writing, chronicling my WW II experiences and authoring Growing Up in Rose Hill, published by private press and sold as a fund-raiser for the Tomball Community Museum Center, where I have served as a volunteer, trustee and Chairman. I am still involved with the Tomball hospital as a weekly volunteer and serve as General Manager of Tomball Emergency Assistance Ministries (TEAM), a church-sponsored operation that provides food and other assistance to area families. I continue to be involved in writing about my childhood and personal interests, and I still enjoy woodworking and other handyman projects. My wife and I still live in Tomball and are not far from most of our 8 surviving children and 14 grandchildren.