If it’s good enough for a monkey, it’s good enough for the kids. A stick. Your great grand-papa had one he used to push a hoop down the dirt road with. Gramps had one he turned into a slingshot he used to shoot green china-berries at the neighbors windows with and your dad had one he whittled a clever little statue out of. Even you had one you used to hit your sister over the head with. And recent scientific research from the man that proved our big brains are the results of good old fashioned home cooking has found that monkeys use them as dolls.
Richard Wrangham of Harvard University and Sonya Kahlenberg of Bates College have documented stick use among chimpanzees that doesn’t fit into our current understanding of stick use among primates. Use had previously shown that monkeys used sticks as basic weapons and in the acquisition of food. The new evidence shows that well beyond their functional use chimps will often use sticks in clearly playful behavior, carrying them about tucked under an arm or cradled in a lap. The chimps will carry these sticks back to their sleeping nests, something not done with sticks used as tools.
And this holiday season what could be a better gift than one that fits into the spirit of our difficult economic times and the simple healthy pleasures of Christmases past than the gift of a wholesome, organically grown stick. The same humble stick your forbears used to whap the livestock home to the corral with. The time honored limb broken off the nearby tree that was used to scratch the places that itch that no one person can reach without a lifetime of contortionist exercises. The supple withy stick used as rod to spare spoiling the child. The stick that holds the carrot we all strive for yet can never attain. Yes, this season give sticks. Imagine the joy in a young child’s eyes as they unwrap a gift that brings out the most inspired ideas of their imaginations. It can be a light-saber or a simple sword, a balancing rod as they walk the high wire of the back of the couch or the conductors wand as they direct the New York philharmonic. Add a piece of string and it becomes a bow, or a fishing rod, with a notch it becomes an atlatl. The possibilities are endless, make it short and with a sharp point and you can stay protected from vampires.
This Christmas everyone I know is getting a stick, I can think of nothing they deserve more.