A Pride, An Ambush, and A Sleuth… Oh My!

by Curt Kovener

A collective noun, as students of Mrs. Lewis’s high school English class will tell you, is a word for a group of specific items, animals or people. For example, a group of ships is called a fleet, a group of cows is called a herd, a group of lions is called a pride, a group of baseball players is called a team, and a group of ants is called a colony.

But there are unique names for a collection of animals; some are obvious after some thought, others are head scratchers.

For instance, it is a cauldron of bats, it is a kindle of kittens but as they mature a group of cats is a clowder. A group of puppies is a litter and a group of dogs is a pack.

On the farm it is a tribe of goats, flock of chickens, a gaggle of geese, a pace of donkeys, a pack of mules, and not a CAFO of hogs but a passel of pigs.

For the less domesticated animals it is a cauldron of bats, a band of gorillas, a pod of whales, a warren of rabbits, a murder of crows, an unkindness of ravens, a covey of quail, a kettle of hawks, a convocation of eagles, a troop of kangaroos.

Then there are those collective names that, after some thought, make perfect sense: a labor of moles, a charm of finches, a stand of flamingos, a romp of otters, scold of bluejays, a crash of rhinoceroses, a scurry of squirrels, a pandemonium of parrots, they are a flock of ducks in flight but a raft of ducks on the water, a tower of giraffes.

And finally, a group of owls (the bird known for being wise) is called a parliament. A group of baboons is called a congress.

I shall leave you to meditate on that without comment.

Weather Or Not…

by Curt Kovener

As it is at your house, it is cold and frozen in the wilderness.
And also as it is at your house, I am ready for a brief…or maybe even extended… above freezing respite.
It was welcome to have a light White Christmas. Though most of us would have preferred to have not been gifted with extended temperatures from sub-zero to the teens since then.
There is still a covering of the Christmas snow in the wilderness. It makes for easier wildlife viewing. Birds and other critters can be more easily seen moving about the woodland ridges and valleys. In light of the temperatures, I prefer to view them through the window from the inside of the house.
It is an adventure to visually track winged movement on the far ridge as blue jays, cardinals, and the generic “little brown birds” fly closer and closer to dine at the nearly always emptied seed feeder in front of the house.
Even Emma & Willow keep watch over their property from inside.
The pond has about 5” of ice. I do not know if that is a record since I do not keep such tallies. But I can tell you it is more than is needed or preferred.
As I walk the front porch and back deck to bring in wood for the now always burning fireplace, the boards crack and pop more than usual. I will blame the cold weather not my added holiday winter weight for their groaning.
You may wonder why I am writing about the obvious—the overly lingering #$%*%! cold Southern Hoosier temperatures.
It is a matter of history and tradition.
Long time readers of this column will recall that when I would write about how wet the weather was in the wilderness, by the time the newspaper came out the skies dried up. And the times when I would write about how hot and parched the wilderness was, by the time you got the paper mid-week, we enjoyed a cooling rain shower.
So that is why I write about this cold, frigid weather. For all of our comfort, let us hope history and tradition remain true.

The W In Christmas

by Curt Kovener

(Christmas traditions make the winter holiday special. We share with you another of our Christmas traditions with this story from the Curt Comments archives.)

Each December, I vowed to make Christmas a calm and peaceful experience. I had cut back on non-essential obligations— extensive card writing, endless baking, decorating, and even overspending. Yet still, I found myself exhausted, unable to appreciate the precious family moments, and of course, the true meaning of Christmas.
My son, Nicholas, was in kindergarten that year. It was an exciting season for a 5-year old. For weeks, he’d been memorizing songs for his school’s “Winter Pageant.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d be working the night of the production.
Unwilling to miss his shining moment, I spoke with his teacher. She assured me there’d be a dress rehearsal the morning of the presentation. All parents unable to attend that evening were welcome to come then. Fortunately, Nicholas seemed happy with the compromise.
So, the morning of the dress rehearsal, I filed in ten minutes early, found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down. Around the room, I saw several other parents quietly scampering to their seats. As we waited, the students were led into the room. Each class, accompanied by their teacher, sat cross-legged on the floor. Then, one by one, each class rose to perform their song.
When my son’s class rose to sing, “Christmas Love,” Nicholas was aglow, as were all of his classmates, adorned in fuzzy mittens, red sweaters, and bright woolen toboggans upon their heads.
Those students in the front row-center stage held up large letters, one by one, to spell out the title of the song.
As the class would sing “C is for Christmas,” a child would hold up the letter C.
Then, “H is for Happy,” and on and on, until each child holding up his portion had presented the complete message, “Christmas Love.”
The performance was going smoothly, until suddenly, we noticed her. A small, quiet, girl who had Downs Syndrome in the front row was holding her letter “M” upside down— totally unaware her letter “M” appeared as a “W”.
The audience of 1st through 6th graders snickered at this little one’s mistake. But she had no idea they were laughing at her. She stood tall, proudly holding her “W”.
Although many teachers tried to shush the children, the laughter continued until the last letter was raised, and we all saw it together.
A hush came over the audience and eyes began to widen. In that instant, we understood the reason we were there, why we celebrated, why even in the chaos, there was a purpose for our festivities.
For when the last letter was held high, the message read clearly: “CHRIST WAS LOVE”
And He still is.

A Not-So-Time In The Wilderness

by Curt Kovener

This is a not-so-pretty time in the wilderness. The brown leaves continue to blow about even after multiple raking, mulching and cleanup. The brown bones of bare trees offer little contrast or color to the drab hills and hollers.
The October pumpkins that made for a bright orange fall decoration outdoors are now looking like they are melting down with decay. They will soon be taken to the compost pile to continue their natural return process to the earth.
The robins have already eaten the bright red dogwood seeds removing even the tiniest tidbit of color from the landscape.
Even the birds at the feeder are dull colors of brown, tan, black, gray, charcoal; about like the black sunflower seeds they crave. Occasionally a red crown of a woodpecker or a cardinal will make an appearance.
Willow the cat, always outfitted in natural tortoiseshell camouflage, sits in the picture window watching the birds at the feeder.
About the best thing nature can do in December is a covering of snow. It accentuates textures of trees and covers up the drabness of the forest floor.
I first thought it would be some time before the ground became cold enough to keep any fallen snow white & frozen, but a couple of days with temperature barely reaching the high of freezing has changed all of that.
The South had some unexpected snow, but Southern Indiana had none…until Saturday morning.
Some flakes gently fell at the wilderness leaving a visible dusting on the icy edges of the lake. To compensate for the chilling view, I fetched in another load of wood for the fireplace.
About the only color to the wilderness is the white floof of Emma the Great Pyrenees as she roams the ridges, dam, lane, creeks and hollers. She considers it her job to keep us protected and all invasive critters off her property all the time including the seed stealing birds at the feeders that Willow watches. Barking and barking and barking, Emma vocalizes her warnings to all intruders real and imagined.
As a result, I  believe this Christmas season we will have a not-so-silent night and the only time all is calm is when Emma is asleep.

Wise & Wise Acre…Part Deux

by Curt Kovener

My long-time friend Joe Persinger and I share a number of similarities: singing and playing guitar, a career in the newspaper business, a fondness for wine, and sharing puns & corny jokes.
It is on that last quality I ask your indulgence and, perhaps you too, will gain some smiles from these intellectual bits of wisdom.
•No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery.
•If you don’t pay your exorcist, you can get repossessed.
•I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. I just can’t put it down.
•I didn’t like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.
•Did you hear about the crossed-eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn’t control her pupils?
•When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble.
•When chemists die, they barium.
•I stayed up all night to see where the sun went, and then it dawned on me.
•I changed my iPod’s name to Titanic. It’s syncing now.
•England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.
•Haunted French pancakes give me the crepes.
•This girl today said she recognized me from the Vegetarians Club, but I’d swear I’ve never met herbivore.
•I know a guy who’s addicted to drinking brake fluid, but he says he can stop any time.
•A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.
•I got some batteries that were given out free of charge.
•A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail.
•A will is a dead giveaway.
•With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.
•Police were summoned to a daycare center where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.
•Did you hear about the fellow whose entire left side was cut off? He’s all right now.
•A bicycle can’t stand alone; it’s just two tired.
•The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine last week is now fully recovered.
•He had a photographic memory but it was never fully developed.
•When she saw her first strands of gray hair, she thought she’d dye.
•Acupuncture is a jab well done. That’s the point of it.
•Those who get too big for their pants will be totally exposed in the end.

That Fine Line Between Wise & Wise Acre

by Curt Kovener

(While the editor is working off too much holiday turkey, we reached into the Curt Comments archive for a repeat performance of this week’s column.)
Aphorism is a short, pointed sentence that expresses a wise or clever observation or a general truth. But sometimes it oversteps and one is viewed as a smart aleck.
•The nicest thing about the future is… it always starts tomorrow.
•Money will buy a fine dog, but only kindness will make him wag his tail.
•If you don’t have a sense of humor, you probably don’t have any sense at all.
•Seat belts are not as confining as wheelchairs.
•A good time to keep your mouth shut is when you’re in deep water.
•How come it takes so little time for a child who is afraid of the dark to become a teenager who wants to stay out all night?
•Business conventions are important because they demonstrate how many people a company can operate without.
•Why is it that at class reunions you feel younger than everyone else looks?
•Scratch a cat and you will have a permanent job.
•No one has more driving ambition than the teenage boy who wants to buy a car.
•There are no new sins; the old ones just get more publicity.
•There are worse things than getting a call at 4 a.m. that’s a wrong number. It could be the right number.
•No one ever says “It’s only a game” when their team is winning.
•I’ve reached the age where ‘happy hour’ is a nap.
•Be careful about reading the fine print… there’s no way you’re going to like it.
•The trouble with bucket seats is that not everybody has the same size bucket.
•Do you realize that, in about 30 years, we’ll have thousands of old ladies running around with tattoos and a perky chest?
•After 60, if you don’t wake up aching in every joint, you’re probably dead.
•Always be yourself because the people that matter don’t mind… and the ones that mind don’t matter.
•Life isn’t tied with a bow but it’s still a gift.
•Politicians and diapers should be changed often and for the same reason.
•The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for.