Shaggy Cotton

Another from the prolific Dave Wallace.

Central California and Australia produce some of the finest cotton in the world. The reason is that it never (well, hardly ever) rains in California and, using irrigation from the Sierras, the crop can be kept at the exact soil moisture necessary to optimize plant growth. The same
situation exists in parts of Australia, where it truly never rains, but the water is supplied by Artesian wells. Never so dry that the crop is stunted or dies, never so wet so that fungus and weevils destroy the bolls. Egypt has had a similar (Nile flooding) situation for millennia.

One of the early pioneers in California was Theodore. When he moved from Colorado to California in the century-before the century-before last and started growing cotton, he named the company The-Tell, after his hometown Telluride (and, of course, himself).

The-Tell added a research laboratory when additional environmental rules (the Bunning Act) caused problems, because the hulls left over after ginning were now required to be environmentally benign. The Bunning of the rules problem was actually quite easy for the boffins. The key was simply adding a little Ginger Ale to the ginning process.

Later, the boffins were barely fazed by the new challenge from other markets (especially Cuban Mariel products), which pre-sized the cotton to make it more easily woven. They simply added a little starch and Nitro Express to the Bunning process so that the run also sizes.

A mere hundred years after The-Tell was founded, the then-management realized that cheap computers, with newly-developed inexpensive sensors and computer-controlled water dispensers, could actually apply the exact number of drops of water required for each and every cotton plant to maximize the quality and quantity of cotton bolls produced. So they did that. And they made wonderful cotton. And they still do.

Unfortunately for The-Tell, about this very same time, synthetic fibers and films were developed which were both waterproof and breathable – and for hikers, mountaineers and skiers, that’s where the phrase “Cotton Kills” entered the lexicon.

So the confident The-Tell scientists started research to counter the synthetic threat.

One characteristic of cotton is that it has a very high resistance to electricity. Hoping that a new flexible flat-film solar-powered battery technology carried by the user would allow a low-resistance fabric to cause an electric current to warm, dry and protect the outdoors user, The-Tell developed a modified, optimal, self-terminating, low-electrical-resistance cotton for outdoor apparel. After years of ernest effort, they’ve dubbed the new technology “PapaTex” (They wanted to call it GoreTex, but that was already taken), and named the new product “4 Ohm The-Tell Bolls”.

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