Life of a Nauga
We have all heard of Naugahyde. It was used in upholstering custom cars in the 1960’s and 1970’s. But does anyone know where it comes from? Does it come from an animal? Where does it live? What does it eat? How is it gathered?
I have wondered about these things for years. After extensive research and hunting of historical and agricultural archives I think I have pieced together the ‘Life of a Nauga’ history.
Back in 1930 they were still exploring the East Coast of the United States, particularly the State of Maine. A small party of explorers led by William Ridley was sent to Maine. There had been this particular part of Maine that had remained unexplored because it was always shrouded in mist. The Ridley party was tasked with penetrating that mist to discover what created it and why it smelled like cheese.
No one had ever been in the mist because of the smell and fear of being consumed by whatever made the mist. The Ridley party entered the mist and wandered for two days until they came to a large lush plain. Lying in the grass of the plain were these strange looking animals. They resembled small cows but that was about it. William Ridley cataloged them and named them Nauga.
The name came from the sound they made when they called to each other. Several times a day they would gather and climb the trees around the area to munch on the tiny leaves at the top of the tree. These trees were Eucalyptus trees originally brought to America from Australia. It was thought that these trees only existed in California from the days of the Gold Rush.
They seemed to have been put here to feed and protect the Nauga. They had adapted very well to the surrounding mist and actually seemed to be thriving in it. The trees were unusually dense in foliage enabling the Nauga to have a continuous supply of the tiny leaves.
Another feature of the Nauga which mystified Ridley and his party was their uncanny ability to climb trees. Nauga had cloven hooves which would make it impossible to climb anything much less a tree. But they did several times a day. Ridley discovered that the hooves actually dug into the bark of the tree which was very soft and created rungs or steps to get up the trunks.
Once at the top of the tree the Nauga would lie down and chewed the leaves. They were there for about an hour and consumed a bushel of leaves. With the aid of the mist and the type of tree the leaves seemed to grow back very quickly. This gave the Nauga a seemingly endless supply of food. There was a small stream running through the plain that gave the Nauga fresh water. The water was very sweet and was somewhat fermented which accounted for some of the smell.
The leaves combined with the water kept the Nauga healthy and happy. The only drawback to Ridley was the smell of the Nauga farts. They smelled like the mist. The Ridley party was the originator of the term ‘Who cut the cheese?’ when asking about someone who farted. That expression still survives today.
The area that the Nauga inhabited had yet to be named. Because the Ridley expedition had explored the area they got to name it. They pondered for days on a name. The cook of the party finally had a name that everyone liked. He called the place the ‘Plains of Parmesan’ because the mist smelled like Parmesan Cheese. Everyone laughed at the name but it stuck and is on all the maps of Maine.
We have seen where they live, how they ate and what they looked like. How do we get their hides? Why weren’t they extinct like other animals which were hunted for their pelts? Another strange thing was that the Nauga did one thing that was very rare among mammals. Four times a year they shed their hides to be replaced by new hides. So to get a Naugahyde all one had to do was find one lying on the ground.
Once the discarded hides were gathered and dried, they were trimmed into large flat rectangles. Once these cured rectangles were dried and bundled, they were sent to a processing plant where they were dyed the various colors which made up the finished product. The hides were soft and could be easily formed around a frame to make a seat. That was what happened when they were used in a customized hot rod. They made a beautiful seat.
Nauga, as many other animals did, mated for life. They could be seen standing or laying together in small groups. These herds were non-violent and served to protect the offspring. The gestation period of a Nauga was about 14 months. They had one Nauga at birth. The mother Nauga had teats like a cow and nursed the offspring. After about 6 months the baby Nauga learned to climb trees and got their own food. The cycle to reproduce started again.
Since being discovered and used for the production of Naugahyde the Nauga had been domesticated and transported to other parts of the United States. Southern California had become one of the largest areas where Nauga were raised. This was the central area for the largest custom car industry. The demand for Naugahyde leveled off since the peak years of 1964 through 1972. More than 90% of the Naugahyde produced today is for export. The major markets were in Tijuana Mexico, Havana Cuba and several cities in South America and China.
There was never a push by large conglomerates to create giant ranches or farms for the production of Naugahyde. It was still a small business operation that generated a good steady income for the right person. At one point in my life I considered scrapping my computer software career and joining the Nauga Ranchers to boost production. What was once thought to be a major growth industry has become a sustained growth industry with production meeting demand with a modest growth of 4% per year.
So now when you drive in Southern California and you see a mist shrouded area that smells like cheese, you know that it really is a Nauga Ranch that produces the Naugahyde you are sitting on in the car or at home.
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