A SHEEP MAKES IT SHEEPISH

Arnold Grummer's handmade paper 'LAMBS' card
from the files of Arnold Grummer

There was nothing sheepish about the men meeting in Philadelphia in July of 1776. Pondering the feasibility (and danger?) of creating a totally new, independent Nation, they were grappling and sparring over words and language that would excise the American colonies from Mother England and declare independence. 

But there definitely was something sheepish about the final document that held the words eventually agreed upon to comprise the independence declaration.  And thereby hangs the tale of paper’s being upstaged.

Sometime before that July, a casual sheep was gamboling across green hillsides, vales, dales and dells. It was just a run-of-the -flock sheep. It gathered no particular attention from others. It held no high jump record. Its wool was the standard issue. Its ‘baaaa’ was blah. It might not even have had a good self-image.

A couple of gamboling sheep

But what its fellow sheep didn’t know was that this nondescript, below-the-radar, grass scrabbling wool-ball was, unbelievably, going to reach glory, fame , and adulation beyond anything describe-able in the total ‘baa-baaa’ vocabulary.

This sheep was running around through sunshine and bramble in a skin that would become revered, cherished, held in honor and respect, attended to by the supreme in preservation science, and deemed by many to be the most hallowed object ever created.

That skin had a date with the group of men in 1776 Philadelphia steaming over phrases and sentences, commas and periods.  Eventually reaching resolution, the men yelled for something upon which to inscribe their final agreement, namely, the Declaration of Independence (a name knocked down from the original, A Reason for Treason).  And that is when there became something sheepish about the project. 

The writing material chosen for the final, official version was not beautiful, beloved, glistening-white PAPER, that had for centuries been the faithful sure repository of History’s most immaculate minds, no, it was the skin, scoured, scrubbed and rubbed into parchment, of that totally nondescript, run-of-the-flock, undistinguished, grass scrabbling, hill, dale, vale and dell gamboling, zero sheep. 

US Declaration of Independence original document
The original Declaration of Independence was written on parchment and is displayed for public viewing at the National Archives in Washington DC (image used with permission)

And so, in one of history’s most famous moments, paper was upstaged.  But never count paper out. Shortly thereafter paper leaped again into the fray and became the signal victor. It was paper upon which was inscribed the Constitution of the U.S. of America.

Editor’s Note: Articles by Arnold Grummer are (C) 2020 Arnold Grummer’s LLC. Handmade papers accompanying his articles are made by Arnold Grummer unless otherwise noted.

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