We Don’t Even Rank In The Top 10

by Curt Kovener

Harvey hammered Houston now as of this writing Irma is trying to blow Florida away. Who knows as we go down the alphabet what additional national disasters may befall us.
Old Testament believers might say that God is smiting this nation. But contemporary church goers might say since we are a Christian nation founded on religious principals, the Almighty would not do that. But perhaps that is a topic for another column another time.
Despite the property damage, displacement of people and death around the Gulf Coast, America doesn’t rank in the top nine for world wide killer natural disasters.
#9 On Jan. 12, 2010 a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti. More than 1.5 million people lost their homes. There were 200,000 killed and thousands more from the cholera epidemic that broke out afterwards.
#8 On Christmas Day 2004 a 9.0 magnitude earthquake in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Sumatra resulted in tsunami waves up to 50 feet tall which struck 11 countries resulting in the death of 226,000.
#7 An earthquake in China in 1920 killed half the population of Haiyuan. Final death toll: 230,000.
#6 A cyclone (hurricane) struck the Ganges River Delta in India on Oct. 11, 1737 then moved inland 200 miles dumping 15 inches of rain in six hours killing 300,000.
#5 On Nov. 11, 1970, a cyclone struck at Bhola, Banladesh laying waste to the country and killing an estimate 350,000.
#4 Eight-five percent of the buildings were destroy in the city of Tangshan, China on July 28, 1976 when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake occurred injuring more than a million people and killing 240,000.
#3 An 8.0 magnitude earthquake shook Shaanxi, China on Jan. 23, 1556 collapsing every single building and killing 830,000.
#2 The river called “China’s Sorrow” earned its name in 1887 when the Huang Le River flooded over half million square miles of land filling 11 cities and villages with water leaving 2 million homeless and 900,000 dead.
The #1 killer natural disaster occurred in 1931 in Southern China. Rivers were already swollen from spring precipitation when torrential rains fell causing the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers to overflow their banks wiping out crops and the resulting standing water became contaminated. The combination of events led to starvation and outbreaks of typhoid and dysentery resulting in the deaths of 3.7 million people.
Most of those countries at the time were financially overwhelmed by the devastation or did not have any disaster assistance available.
You may be curious to know that members of the Republican Congressional delegation from Texas who voted against more funding for damage done in along the east coast by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 now support more funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency for their home state in 2017.
We should all hope that those who want to “Make America Great Again” have it in their conscience to help those Americans who become smitten by the Almighty.

Well, Back When I Was In School . . .

by Curt Kovener

The opinion piece below this column was penned by a well-respected Ball State University economist. He proposes that to keep small schools in their community in Indiana, communities need to merge school corporations, boards and administration.

So let’s use that as a beginning point for a deliberative community discussion.

For decades, since the last school consolidation in the 1960’s, Crothersville and Medora…not just the two smallest schools in the county but the entire state…have been on someone’s list to merge, consolidate or close.

The conventional wisdom all along was if the school closes, businesses would close in the community for lack of traffic. But maybe you should take a look at what retail business has already left Crothersville. Does having a school attract or maintain retail business? Does not having a school mean business will leave? Those painful answers should come from our Southern Hoosier common sense.

Two thoughts: merging school corporations will save some tax dollars, but that should not be our prime consideration for education. Rather improving, broadening learning opportunity for students should be.

Crothersville has done an exemplary job of offering expanded educational opportunities by partnering with other high schools and Ivy Tech. We are ahead of the curve on that front. And, perhaps that kind of innovation can stave off the state push to merge schools or school corporations.

Small school communities will be suspicious of such mergers…and rightfully so. Merging school corporations will dilute local input. Rather than a board of five local residents accountable to voters, small schools could have just one representative on a board of five or seven and become a minority voice.

On this front, I have for a long time had an issue—and you should too— with boards with Jackson County in their name not embracing geographic diversity representation on their boards. Community Foundation of Jackson and Jackson County Visitors Center are two examples that quickly come to mind. How can they claim to have the county’s best interest at heart if all communities of the county are not represented?

Any merger with any other school corporation should require local representations on any policy making board. If history is our example, early in our country’s history we fought a war over “taxation without representation.”

Technology always changes the way we do things. When the Crothersville Times began in the 1980’s we used specialized typesetting equipment, layout tables for pages, film darkrooms, and large cameras for page negatives. Now my laptop computer takes care of it all and I send .pdf’s to the web press to be printed into the paper your are reading. Or maybe reading online which is more proof of the expanded technology those in my industry must embrace.

Just as technology has changed the newspaper industry in the past 20 years, that same technology as well as teaching techniques, employment requirements and modes of transportation have changed for education. Perhaps it is time we should pre-meditatively, calmly, rationally, thoughtfully discuss a school structure that is more in tune to the 21st Century rather than preserving our perception of our own educational experience.

Life Truths… yet another version

by Curt Kovener

In light of the constant barrage of tweets and news(?) out of Washington, perhaps we need a weekly chuckle to maintain some semblance of balance in our lives. But if you disagree, perhaps it is because you are imbalanced.

After scanning the Internet for something to take our minds off our problems (real, imagined and otherwise), here is an offering of life’s truths.

  • Don’t sweat the petty things, and don’t pet the sweaty things.
  • One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.
  • One nice thing about egotists: They don’t talk about other people.
  • To be intoxicated is to feel sophisticated but not be able to say it.
  • Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.
  • The older you get, the better you realize you were.
  • I doubt, therefore I might be.
  • Age is a very high price to pay for maturity.
  • Despite the cost of living, have you noticed how it remains so popular?
  • Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.
  • Women like silent men, they think they’re listening.
  • Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.
  • A fool and his money are soon partying.
  • Do pediatricians play miniature golf on Wednesdays?
  • If all the world is a stage, where is the audience sitting?
  • Why is it called tourist season if we can’t shoot at them?
  • I just got lost in thought. It was unfamiliar territory.
  • Atheism is a non-prophet organization.
  • I drive way too fast to worry about cholesterol.
  • I intend to live forever; So far, so good.
  • Support bacteria! It’s the only culture some people have.
  • The only substitute for good manners is fast reflexes.
  • When everything’s coming your way, you’re probably in the wrong lane.

Bigger Is Not Always Better

by Curt Kovener

Size does indeed matter. But bigger is sometimes a detriment.

At 6’7” I have difficulty finding clothes. With a size 14 foot, there is also difficulty finding shoes. And I don’t fit in just any vehicle comfortably.

But enough about me.

The State Chamber of Commerce wants schools smaller than 2,000 enrollment to merge to improve test scores and student performance. I am not so sure of that correlation. If I can’t swim so well in my backyard pool will I swim better in the crowded larger municipal pool? Read two stories on our front page this week for differing views on that topic.

The State Chamber of Commerce is a legislative lobbying organization for its members who own & run businesses. They lobby for things like decreased taxes, decreased regulation, and improved government infrastructure to benefit business. Their members pay them dues annually to do this. And some of those dues are more than four figures each year. So you have to factor in a cost/benefit.

It should go without saying that a one-man newspaper in a one-stoplight town can’t afford their membership dues and wouldn’t get much benefit from the organization. But they would take my money if offered and send me a nice window decal to display to prove I am in business.

Now look up and down the main business district of Crothersville and ask yourself “I wonder how many of the few businesses left in town are members of the state chamber?”

That answer would be none.

If a lobbying firm does what it’s dues paying members want, and few to none of their members are from small communities, interests of small communities, business or otherwise, are left in the lurch. The small town voices get drowned out by the big city boys & girls.

Bigger is better? Methinks the fix is in.

Inspired By Washington Leaders

by Curt Kovener

I have an old book of inspirational quotes from people from the Mid-West. Granted, it’s a pretty big region but I still like the wisdom of a Mid-Westerner. I wished those serving us(?) in Washington would pay attention.

“Absorb ideas from every source,” ~Thomas Edison

“There are things worth learning after you think you know it all,” ~Harry S Truman.

“Man has much to learn from nature,” ~Walt Disney

“Time is a great teacher,” ~Carl Sandburg

“Tomorrow comes to us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives, and it puts itself in our hands and hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday,” ~John Wayne

“The trouble with the world is not that people know so little, but that they say so many things that ain’t so.” ~Mark Twain

“Not to engage in the pursuit of ideas is to live like ants instead of men,” ~Mortimer Adler

“There is no force so powerful as an idea whose time has come,” Everett Dirksen

“Thinking is one thing they’ve never been able to tax,” ~Charles Kettering

“I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen,” ~Ernest Hemingway

“Technology does not improve the quality of life; it improves the quality of things. Improving the quality of life requires the application of wisdom,” ~Neil Armstrong.

“Lord, deliver me from the man who never makes a mistake, and also from the man who makes the same mistake twice, “ ~William Mayo

“You can tell the size of a man by the size of the thing it takes to make him mad,” ~Adlai Stevenson

“Egotism is the anesthetic that dulls the pain of stupidity,” ~Frank Leahy

“Always keep an open mind and a compassionate heart,” ~Phil Jackson

An Early Woodland Memory

by Curt Kovener

(Squirrel hunting season begins next week and here is a recollection from the Curt Comments archives.)
I felt something shaking my foot through the covers of my bed. I really didn’t want to open my eyes because it seemed they had only drifted off to sleep just moments before.
Then there was that foot shaking again followed by a raspy half-whisper so not to awaken by brother sleeping in the next bed over “You going to go huntin’?” my dad asked.
Immediately my eyes popped open. That was why I couldn’t fall asleep. Knowing Dad & I were going squirrel hunting the next morning had wired my 11-year-old mind better than any caffeine could have. Sleep just wouldn’t come in anticipation of my first squirrel hunt.
I threw back the bed sheet on that early mid-August day over 50 years ago, grabbed my hunting clothes which I had laid out the night before.
As I got to the kitchen, Dad was going through an early squirrel hunting morning ritual. “You want some coffee?” he asked as he let the hot water run from the tap and dumped a spoonful of instant coffee into a cup.
Figuring that was what all hunters did as a part of their pre-hunt ritual, I yawned with a sleepy-eyed “Yeah.”
He put the guns in the old Dodge truck, and as we drove to Grandpa’s woods, I drank the bitter, tepid beverage hoping that maybe someday I’d get accustomed the taste.
We always hunted Grandpa’s woods near Dudleytown. It was nearly level, plenty of beech and hickory trees, and Grandpa kept it mowed to keep a good pasture for the cows he had grazing throughout the summer.
There was plenty of food for the squirrels, the walking and moving was easy and we didn’t have to worry too much about making excessive noise because the squirrels were accustomed to all the cows.
Dad used a 12 ga. pump shotgun. He handed me a .22/.410 over and under. “If you can get a good bead on one use the rifle. If you miss, bust him out with the shotgun,” he told me.
We had talked for days before and he told me the best way to hunt was to find a comfortable place to sit so I could see several likely trees and wait for the limbs to start moving or cuttings to start falling and follow them up to find the squirrel.
He went over gun safety and making sure not to shoot at anything on the ground or running up a tree and to be sure of my target before squeezing the trigger.
“Be careful and good luck” he said as he creeped through the woods to his favorite spot to hunt.
The late-summer early dawn air was thick with humidity and sweet with the smell of ripening corn just a field away. The dew was so heavy my pants had been soaked from the knees down before we got halfway from the truck to the woods.
I sat at the base of a hollow beech tree, cradled by the large sprawling roots and waited for some more sunlight to arrive. I looked to the treetops and, being new at hunting, wasn’t real sure just what I was looking for.
But I would remember over and over what Gramp and my Dad had told me: “Listen for the sound of water dripping through the leaves. It’s either a squirrel cutting on a nut or a squirrel moving through the tree branches.”
It wouldn’t be long before I heard that sound and could add another possibility its cause: birds. Birds could get a squirrel hunter’s adrenaline flowing only to end up being a fickle lover when you found their true identity.
Sometimes when you try to concentrate on the silence of the woods, listening for a faint giveaway sound of game, you hear things that aren’t there.
Like that sound of water dripping through the trees that I was hearing…or thought I was hearing. No, I was hearing it.
I searched the nearby treetops moving only my eyes looking for its source. Finally I acquiesced and moved my head around trying to see where that sound was coming from.
Then some white and green tinged shreddings of hickory nut hull fell just within arm’s reach of me. I contorted my head and eventually my whole body—at least as much as an 11-year-old who has never hunted can—to search for that squirrel.
Finally, with my body stretched out at an impossible angle to hold for a steady shot, I saw a bit of bushy auburn tail.
And my heart began pounding even harder. Knowing that if I moved for a better shot angle the squirrel would be gone. I decided to lie flat on my back on the ground. I could seek a bushy tail flick as more and more hickory hulls peppered all around me. But with the iron sights, I couldn’t see any part of the squirrel to take a shot.
“Be sure of your target” I remember Dad telling me more times than one.
Not wanting to be embarrassed by missing the first squirrel I ever spotted and shot at, I made what I thought was a pretty logical decision for my age and experience: use the shotgun.
So I clicked down to the .410 barrel, laid back on the forest floor, and after a bit of wavering, drew a solid bead on the general location of the vital parts of the squirrel.
BLAM!
It would not be for several years later in Mr. Bard’s physics class that I would be introduced to Newton’s laws of motion. Specifically about any action requiring an equal and opposite reaction. The ground doesn’t move with the recoil of a small shotgun.
All I knew at the time was my arm, my shoulder, my collar bone hurt like the dickens. But up I jumped as soon as I heard a nearby thud on the ground.
Dad said as he walked up all he saw was a broad, beaming smile picking up his first squirrel.