Let's Give Tarps Some RESPECT

Published in the September 2008 Issue September 2008

Just like Rodney Dangerfield's famous line, "I get no respect," such is the life of a tarp. They're used and abused, dejected and neglected, then finally discarded like last week's newspaper. After a life of service, they never earn any respect and die with low self-esteem. Webster won't even give them a place in his book. But "tarpaulin" is listed-when's the last time someone asked for a "tarpaulin" at the local hardware store? Not in my town!

Several years ago, my wife and I were novice boaters and we were boating in Arizona. It was mid-August and we were suffering from the blistering, triple-digit heat. Our pontoon's bimini had protected us from the direct sun all day, but the extreme temperature had been a killer. We were suffering and nearly medium rare.

Then it happened-the worst thing ever. The sun dropped in the sky and was beating directly on us from an angle. It zapped us and short-circuited our vitals. We were approaching melt down. Sunstroke knocked at our door.

Shade was our most precious commodity in this lethal summer sun and we had no place to hide. Just before the grey matter was transformed into the consistency of a fried egg yolk-the last few memory cells sent an urgent message to the command center, "There are tarps under the seat." The sun's fatal rays were blocked as soon as we secured these tarps to the bimini with bungee cords. We were saved from the ultra-violets. Sounds simple, even easy, but it was a crucial rescue.

Move over Wall Street, tarps rallied to a record high that day. They became one of our most valued assets. Tarps received high priority after that "close encounter of the wrong kind" and enjoyed an elevated ranking on the boating checklist-up near gas and money.

"Desperation is the mother of invention" and creativity and our tarp fever caused ideas to start popping like popcorn. While we boated, our seven gas cans back at our campsite were protected from the intense sun and any dishonest eyes, with tarps. (Some people would jump on unguarded fuel quicker than a chicken on a June bug). Tarps saved us one night when a desert cloud burst pounded our pontoon for nearly an hour. The storm stole some sleep, but our pillows and blankets were dry.

We covered picnic tables with tarps, spread them on the beach to sunbathe, hung them in trees for shade, and they doubled as a picnic basket to transport meal accessories from boat to beach. Then, at the end of the season, tarps cocooned our pontoon to protect it from rain and snow. Boaters have long cherished these versatile sheets of waterproof canvas that can be utilized for so many applications. Most own a wide variety of colors and sizes.

Rodney's idea can be used to promote wholesale appreciation of even the little things in life. Let's start with tarps. A National Tarp Day is not necessary, nor is a suggested exhibit at the Smithsonian. But for all they do for us, isn't it time we give tarps some respect?

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