Bear Grease's Imprint on Our Culture Is Still Highly Relevant Thanks to Clay Newcomb
Bear grease was used as a commodity, explained Newcomb. "It could be traded. It could be used like money. I like to say that it's a wonder that we don't call the American dollar 'bear grease.' We call it a buck instead. A buck was the tanned skin of a deer that was basically equivalent to the value of a dollar."
In the mid-1800s, you could have gone anywhere in this country and said the words "bear grease," and people would have had a cultural reference point for what it was and its value.
Today, you'd hardly find anyone who knows what you're referring to.
"Yet, that bear grease has not changed. It is still useful for all those things. It's still healthy. It's still available. It's still something that a portion of the world still deeply values, and it's been forgotten in our history books," he said.
It wasn't quite forgotten in my trip across the country. I came across dozens of people who knew exactly what bear grease was -- a father in Indiana who was taking his son fishing, three young men working behind the counter at the Duluth Trading Post in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, even former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan from his home in Wisconsin. Why? Because they listen to the podcast.
"Bear Grease is a metaphor for things that have been forgotten but are still highly relevant," Newcomb said, echoing the tagline of his podcast.
When Newcomb tells you he is exploring things forgotten but still relevant, it is not a line, but a lifestyle. And whether you are from a rural stretch in this country or live in the city, everyone learns something new when they listen to Newcomb.
Salena Zito is a CNN political analyst, and a staff reporter and columnist for the Washington Examiner. She reaches the Everyman and Everywoman through shoe-leather journalism, traveling from Main Street to the beltway and all places in between. To find out more about Salena and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.Copyright 2021 Creators Syndicate, Inc.