The slickers were a mile a minute, and everyone had a crack at taking the poor farmer. Here was one. Maybe you couldn't grow much, but with a little care you could grow potatoes and they'd help you get through the winter. Didn't the Irish live on them once, and even make their whiskey from them? You could get a binful, but you had to watch out for the bugs. The potato bugs. They could ruin you.
There was this advertisement in a lot of the papers, the (Winnipeg Free Press) Prairie Farmer, the (Saskatoon) Western Producer, the farm papers and some of the
others, and it advertised a sure-fire, quick-kill, instant, always ready potato bug killer. It never missed, and easy to use. Only $1.50 or $1.25. Even a child can use it, the ads said.
Well, there wasn't a farmer who couldn't scrape up a dollar and a half to save his crop, and until the papers got wise and stopped their advertising they must have sold thousands, more than thousands. When it came, it was two pieces of wood, about half an inch thick and about the size of a pack of cigaret papers. About five cents worth of wood, I'd say. The instructions were simple too. Just go out into the potato patch, pick up a potato bug, put it on one piece of wood and slam the other piece of wood down hard. Goodbye, spud bug. They were right, of course, because it was deadly and sure-fire and even a kid could handle one, but somehow that wasn't the point.
They sold an awful lot of them and it got to be a joke, even in the post office, where the postmaster, if a parcel was about the right size, would say, "Okay, Joe, here's your sure-fire and deadly potato bug killer."
Hell, in some ways it was worth a dollar and a half to get a laugh in those days.