Aggravation & Frustration Weather Or Not

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

Not much of one to make New Year’s Resolutions, but early on I had decided that this would be the summer I would clean and re-coat the back deck at the wilderness retreat.
It is a 14’x40’ elevated wood structure that overlooks a tree filled valley and creek. It is a place of summer grilling, nature solitude, contemplation, and conversation… frequently over adult beverages. Over the years I had cleaned and re-coated with a semi transparent stain only to have to repeat the process every few years.
Those four-letter words—work and life—got in the way of my routine maintenance plan and the deck went lacking and was overdue for some care.
I started in May…and it is mid-July and it still isn’t done thanks to the weather.
Being shaded much of the day by yellow poplar, maple, oak, and cherry trees, the deck got its share of tree sap, pollen, tree blooms and seeds, and the accompanying mildew over time. To clean the nearly black wood, I acquired a solid surface cleaning attachment for the power washer. The enclosed circular spinning wand has a pair of nozzles which did a quick job of cleaning the deck down to the bare wood without the usual fuzzing or raising the grain.
I highly recommend this tool to anyone who needs to clean wood or concrete surfaces.
After cleaning I found a number of the boards were split and that a larger number of the fastening screws were above the surface. So I spent a couple of days on a small stool and my cordless drill tightening screws, replacing those that broke. And there was a lot of breakage owing to the years of neglect.
Reading the solid stain instructions, I was instructed that this product is thicker than other stains and contains a sand like substance that helps fill cracks and holes as well as help eliminates a slippery walking surface. Not slipping in my advancing years, is a good thing, I believe.
Advice from experienced painters encouraged me to be sure the deck was totally dry from moisture before beginning the coating lest my efforts not adhere to the wood.
Those experienced told me two days without rain, then let the morning dew evaporate before coating the deck making sure after I was finished there was another 12 hours of drying time without the threat of rain.
Also, I factored in an aging back and knees
By my reckoning that would be four days in a row without rain in the forecast. And that, dear reader, is the rub. We haven’t had a forecast of four days in a row without rain up here in the wilderness.
Well…yes we did and it was during the Red, White & Blue Festival which otherwise occupied my activity and attention.
In late June & July the deck would dry and I would plan on starting the next morning only to be awakened to the sounds of thunder and yet another delay.
So I have tried to complete my task in bits and pieces. Since June I have managed to fill cracks and screw holes in the little time between precipitations in preparation for the eventual first coat of deck stain.
It does make for a peculiar looking deck right now—sort of a combination of polka-dot and stripes of new deck coating and bare wood— but so far now one in complaining or making fun of how it looks.
Perhaps a temporary tarp made into a roof may eventually need be implemented in order to get & keep the deck dry enough for a fresh surface.
I said I planned on re-coating the deck this summer. I just didn’t think it was going to take all summer.

Uno, Dos, Tres

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

Trouble comes in threes. Three strikes and you’re out. “Knock three times on the ceiling if you want me,” “You’re once, twice, three times a Lady.” But there are other trios that we are now going to test your knowledge, thanks to my Bathroom Book of Lists.
•Continuing with the musical lyric theme, from Don McLean’s ‘American Pie’ who are the 3 men he admires the most? Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
•What are the 3 primary colors? Red, Yellow, Blue.
•Name the 3 Little Pigs: Fifer Pig (house of straw), Fiddler Pig (house of sticks) and Practical Pig (house of bricks).
•Who were the original 3 Stooges? Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Shemp Howard.
•Name the 3 Musketeers: Athos, Porthos, Aramis.
•Of course you know horse racing’s triple crown: Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes.
•But what is baseball’s triple crown? When a player leads the league in batting average, home runs and runs batted in.
•According to Ernest Hemingway, the only 3 sports are bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering. “All the rest are merely games,” he said.
•In case you didn’t hear, what are the three bones in the human ear? Malleus (hammer), Incus (anvil), & Stapes (stirrup).
•Since you are reading this bit of prose, surely, you remember from high school English class the three points of view in writing: First person (I, we), Second person (you), and Third person (he, she, they).
•Remember Sigmund Freud’s 3 parts of personality? Id (Unconscious mind, acts on instincts), Ego (conscious mind, keeps the id in check), and Super-Ego (the moral center, distinguishes between right and wrong.) If you thought Super-Ego referred to today’s politicians, you get extra credit.
•From your high school health class, what are the three body types? Ectomorph (tall, thin), Endomorph (short, round), and Mesomorph (athletic).
•What were the 3 Axis Powers of World War II? Germany, Italy and Japan.
•More recently, what countries did President George W. Bush call the ‘Axis of Evil’? Iran, Iraq, North Korea.
•What are the 3 branches of government? Legislative (congress which drafts laws), Judicial (which rules on the constitutionality of the laws passed), and Executive (the cabinet, VP and president who sign or veto laws) Although, today it seems, those lines are getting blurred.

The Day The Tower Tumbled Down

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

Nearly 20 years ago a Crothersville landmark came tumbling down. The original town water tower stood approximately 250’ west of the current town hall. Though, at the time, it was behind to old town hall which, like the old tower, is no longer a part of the town’s landscape.
To enlighten some of the newer immigrants to Crothersville of our history (and to refresh the memories of veteran locals), from the Curt Comments archives here is what was written after the tower stubbornly came down.
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There’s an empty space against the sky in Crothersville.
A major portion of a landmark which the majority local residents took for granted fell to earth with a resounding crash Thursday afternoon. The remnants were to be demolished early this week.
The water tower which for more than three quarters of a century served as the source of water pressure and volume for the 750 or so water utility customers in Crothersville went by way of the cutting torch.
And like many of the advancing age residents of Crothersville, it too, showed a stubborn streak in the end. The plan was to notch the tower and cut it from the opposite side to form a hinge and allow the top of the tank to plummet to earth.
The physics and the mechanics were all okay. But when tension was applied to topple the tank, the hinges started to work but then broke early and the tank wedged itself against it base. And then refused to budge.
Well over two tons of quarter-inch steel sat wedged at an angle more than 120 feet up in the air. It was more cutting and rearranging placement of a chain (and definitely more courage than most of us earthbound sidewalk superintendents had) and a couple of tire squalling tugs from a truck which finally brought the top of the tank to earth.
The tower hadn’t been used in more than a year when it was decommissioned in favor of the new 300,000 gallon tower constructed a block and a half to the north.
Erected in 1922 when the Crothersville Water Utility Company was formed, the 50,000 gallon high tower, just like other water towers in other communities, served as a source of identity for the community.
It had more coats of paint than most folks could remember. Through the years it had been a light blue, gray, and at one time was a patriotic red, white & blue.
For some Crothersville area teens and young adults, the water tower was a rite of passage. Many local youth foolishly climbed the 140-foot tower to prove adulthood. It wasn’t manhood, because some girls were known to have climbed the diagonal braces of the water tower legs.
To mark their territory or to evidence their thrill-seeking ways, names and dates were often spray painted on the tower for earthbound mortals to see.
Adding to the danger, the tower climbing was always done at night so to avoid detection by police and other adults.
More than one well known Crothersville personality not only climbed the tower but went atop the roof to sit on the metal ball at the apex of the cone. In one instance, his peers attested to his daring that night as they saw the intermittent glow of a cigarette he smoked while sitting atop Crothersville’s highest point possibly as he attempted to screw up enough courage to make the trip back down.
And the old tower served as home to thousands of pigeons over its lifetime.
I always thought the old tower could be put to some useful purpose, other than recycled into scrap metal.
Maybe placing a monstrously large spinning gyroscope on top of the tower’s ball would attract visitors to town. Or removing the top and planting flowers and promoting it as the worlds largest flower pot would have attracted sightseers to the community. Afterall, don’t folks know Greensburg in Ripley County as the courthouse with the tree growing from its roof?
But who would plant and who would maintain it and who would pay for the liability insurance all shot the ideas down.
So along with the original Crothersville Water Tower—like Crescent Mill, Crothersville Hardware & Schlueters Store, the multiple general and 5¢&10¢ stores at the stoplight corner, the bandsaw mill, Kern’s Grill, the plethora of grocery stores & restaurants—some of Crothersville’s history and heritage fades into oblivion only to be reminisced over coffee or occasional newspaper columns.

It Said WHAT?!?!

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

Two of our recent columns which generated a good deal of smiles and comments were on church bulletin bloopers and newspaper boo-boos.
Some of my Internet colleagues have sent more humorous gaffs from both the religious and journalistic realms for me to share.
•Over the massive front doors of a church, these words were inscribed: “The Gate of Heaven.” Below that was a small cardboard sign which read: “Please use other entrance.”
•Rev. Warren J. Keating, Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Yuma AZ, says that the best prayer he ever heard was: “Lord, please make me the kind of person my dog thinks I am.”
•A woman went to the post office to buy stamps for her Christmas cards. “What denomination?” asked the clerk. “Oh, good heavens! Have we come to this?” said the woman. “Well, give me 50 Protestant and 50 Catholic ones.”
•On a very cold, snowy Sunday in February, only the pastor and one farmer arrived at the village church. The pastor said, “Well, I guess we won’t have a service today.” The farmer replied: “Heck, if even only one cow shows up at feeding time, I feed it.” And so the preacher began his sermon. An hour and 20 minutes later he said “Amen” and asked the farmer, what he thought of it. “Well,” said the farmer, “even if only one cow showed up to feed I would give her the whole wagon load.”
•During a children’s sermon, Rev. Larry Eisenberg asked the children what “Amen” means. A little boy raised his hand and said: “It means tha-tha-tha-that’s all folks!”
•A student was asked to list the Ten Commandments in any order. His answer? “3, 6, 1, 8, 4, 5, 9, 2, 10, 7.”
•Bill Keane, creator of the Family Circus cartoon strip, tells of a time when he was penciling one of his cartoons and his son, Jeffy, said, “Daddy, how do you know what to draw?” I said, “God tells me.” Jeffy said, “Then why do you keep erasing parts of it?”
•After the church service, a little boy told the pastor: “When I grow up, I’m going to give you some money.” “Well, thank you,” the pastor replied, “but why?” “Because my daddy says you’re one of the poorest preachers we’ve ever had.”
•My wife invited some people to dinner. At the table, she turned to our six-year-old daughter and said, “Would you like to say the blessing?” “I wouldn’t know what to say,” she replied. “Just say what you hear mommy say,” my wife said. Our daughter bowed her head and said: “Dear Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?”
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The Year’s Best Actual News Headlines
•Include Your Children when Baking Cookies
•Something Went Wrong In Jet Crash, Expert Says
•Safety Experts Say School Bus Passengers Should Be Belted
•Drunk Gets Nine Months in Violin Case
•Survivor of Siamese Twins Joins Parents
•Iraqi Head Seeks Arms
•Prostitutes Appeal to Pope
•Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over
•British Left Waffles on Falkland Islands
•Lung Cancer in Women Mushrooms
•Eye Drops Off Shelf
•Teachers Strike Idle Kids
•Clinton Wins on Budget, But More Lies Ahead
•Enraged Cow Injures Farmer With Ax
•Plane Too Close to Ground, Crash Probe Told
•Miners Refuse to Work after Death
•Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant
•Stolen Painting Found by Tree
•Two Sisters Reunited After 18 Years at Checkout Counter
•Killer Sentenced to Die for Second Time in 10 Years
•War Dims Hope for Peace
•If Strike Isn’t Settled Quickly, It May Last a While
•Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures
•Deer Kill 17,000
•Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges
•Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead
•Man Struck By Lightning Faces Battery Charge
•New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group
•Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft
•Kids Make Nutritious Snacks
•Chef Throws His Heart into Helping Feed Needy
•Ban On Soliciting Dead in Trotwood
•Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half
•New Vaccine May Contain Rabies
•Hospital is Sued by 7 Foot Doctors

Wilderness Growth At Summer’s Solstice

by Curt Kovener
Curt-line
I am writing this on the Ides of June, just a few days before today’s Summer Solstice marking the official beginning of summer. But I can reliably tell you the growing season arrived much earlier in the wilderness.
The hills and hollers and flats are lush and green.
Blackberry blossoms were abundant earlier and it appears that the various bees and flying insects of the wilderness have done a good job pollinating. Now if we can have timely moisture like last night’s inch of rain, there should be plenty of berry picking opportunities in July.
The paw-paws of the wilderness are a confounding fruit. Growing in the under story of the forest and blooming early before any insects are out and about, their pollination is sketchy at best relying primarily on breezes, I suppose. We will have to wait and see if the Hoosier Banana produces much of a crop.
The paw-paw doesn’t have much of a shelf life. They bruise easily and rot quicker. I have to pick them just as their skin turns from light green to lighter yellow and before the raccoons find out they are nearly ripe. I process them like persimmons and freeze their pulp.
Domestically— the intended tended plants— our zucchini is fruiting and there will be a first harvest of that versatile and abundant fruit. We planted two plants and that may turn out to the one too many.
The heirloom tomatoes are blooming and producing fruit thanks to the higher temperatures during the day. They are called heirloom because the seeds can be saved and planted next spring and get the same tomato. That is unlike the hybrids which will produce volunteers but not of the same type as its parents.
We’re growing a tomato called ‘Mortgage Lifter’, a large, meaty slicing tomato. It got it’s name back in the 1930’s when the farmer growing them sold enough fruit to pay off his farm mortgage.
They are planted in large pots next to the sidewalk because I found planting tomatoes in the high fenced garden area keeps deer and raccoons out but tomato hornworms can come right in. At least planted near the house where they can be watered, fertilized and weeded often, they can be inspected for the fat green leaf-eating worm.
And on the topic of worms, there were very few tent caterpillars seen in the cherry trees of the forest. Maybe they are cyclical like the Japanese beetle which are now few and far between in the wilderness.
Without any tending, the weeds, briars, vines, multiflora rose and autumn olive (the last two are invasives) grow quite well without any care. But they are tended to periodically with mower, weed-whacker, and pruners…but not to encourage growth.
As a counterpoint to the work requiring forest flora, the daisies and black-eyed susans provide some summer color in the open flats and the forest edges are abundant with cinnamon, staghorn and maidenhair ferns.
They all make for a pleasing tour during an early evening walk-a-bout.

Patrol Ponderings

Emma

Emma

by Emma the Great Pyrenees
While the Editor was busy with Red, White & Blue Festival coverage, I was tickled when asked to write a guest column for a newspaper. What a treat!
Oh, did I say “tickled?” I meant to say, “I itch. Badly. Usually in the area around my tail. Would you please scratch it?”
And as for a treat, well, I’ve always got room in my belly for a good fried egg…
But I guess I’d better forget about all that for a bit while I tell you about the topic on which I happen to be an expert: security. You see, I’m the guard dog for a secluded wilderness retreat infested with all sorts of threats like deer, turkey, raccoons, and don’t even get me started on those seed stealers that visit what my humans call “bird feeders.”
Like all Great Pyrenees, I work the night shift. My humans call it being “nocturnal.” At least that’s what I hear them mumble as one climbs out of bed at night to turn on the fan. I’ve been meaning to ask them how they expect to hear my warning barks if they turn the fan on high and fall back asleep? Oh well, it’s my job to keep them safe, and you’ve probably figured out I take that seriously as I run up and down the ridge, circling the house all through those dangerous, dark hours, barking.
My humans insist that there’s no danger: silly, sweet, well-intentioned people. I just shake my head and smile at them. They don’t hear the other dog about five miles up the road that’s barking. That’s a danger that could escalate in a hurry if I didn’t tell him I’m on guard and he’d better stay off my land. Then there are those noisy diesel engines going up and down the road a few ridges away. Trouble is always one missed warning bark away. My motto, and the motto of my kind, is “constant vigilance.” (My humans get that wrong too; they call it, “constant barking.”)
Sometimes, just before I fall asleep during the day, my people tell me the story of the Great Pyrenees. They say my kind were bred in the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain by farmers who needed big, strong, smart dogs to guard their livestock from bears and wolves. Since we often spent many days by ourselves, we got used to making decisions on our own. I think I’m lucky because I’ve heard tell some dogs can’t do this and must follow things called “commands” from their humans that are learned during some awful ritual called “obedience training.” That’s enough to make a girl shudder.
Another perk to being a Great Pyrenees is that our kind has what my people call a good dash of “flash and dazzle.” I think this has something to do with the way I look as well the way our thick, often white hair doesn’t cling to the dirt we collect as we work, no matter how cooling that mud compress might be that I worked so hard to apply while down at the creek.
They also say Great Pyrenees are known for being stubborn.
But I don’t think they’re right on that one, either. Humans – gotta love them, huh?