A Redundancy Of Onyms

by Curt Kovener

Education is a lifelong process. Particularly when one must use words in his line of work.
I do have diplomas somewhere that say I completed high school and college classes, but most of my knowledge came from HKU…Hard Knocks University. Seat of the pants learning is painful but it does stick with you throughout the years.
While English and writing were a part of my Grade 1 through high school sophomore school experience, it was CHS junior and senior English classes with Mrs. Lewis that intrigued and perplexed me. Now for more than 40 years, I have gotten paid to write.
We all know that a synonym is a word that means the same as another: small or tiny or petite. Sometimes I use a synonym when I can’t spell the word I really want.
We all know antonyms are words that mean the opposite: there are happy and sad test takers, tall and short mixed drinks (depending on your level of thirst or frustration at work), and the bitter sweet memories of a first romance.
There is also the nearly alike sounding anatonym where a part of the body is used as a verb. We toe the line, foot the bill, face the music, belly up to the bar.
Completing this A-section of onyms is the aptronym: a name that is suited to the profession of its owner. Names like Dan Druff the barber, Dr. Wee the urologist, James Bugg a pest exterminator, the late astronaut Sally Ride (not to be confused with the chorus of Mustang Sally), Jim Kick the football player, and two Cross Country runners from my college days: Ralph Foote and Jim Legg (I jest you not).
Then there is the capitonym, a word that changes pronunciation and meaning when it is capitalized. For instance, long-suffering Job secured a job to polish piles of Polish brass. Or in another instance, An herb store owner, named Herb, moved to ranier Mt. Ranier. It would have been so nice in Nice and even tangier in Tangier.
Thanks to Richard Lederer for reminding me of these lessons.

Wilderness Awakens From Winter’s Slumber

by Curt Kovener

There are signs that the wilderness is returning to life after a winter slumber.
The birds at our feeder are changing into their bright warm weather plumage…all except for the cardinals that seem to have brighter red feathers against the winter snow. Gold and red finches are staring to brighter up their feathers.
The bluegill in the lake are seen as dark shadows near the warming surface of the water so I tossed them some floating fish food. Their rapid movement towards me tells me they remember the dinner bell sound of the food hitting the water. But they are slow in eating telling me the water is still winter cold.
The softwood trees are budding out their early blossoms and means we will begin the grass and pollen allergy season in the wilderness. The dogwood flower buds are swelling showing their time to bloom is later this month. The crocus and daffodils have them all beat as they are offering hues of yellow along the wilderness floor.
Paw paws are the earliest wild fruit trees to bloom, showing their bronze bell shaped blossoms, usually in mid-April. They almost always bloom early before any pollinators are flying about and that results in fewer paw paws in late summer.
The forest understory is beginning to green up. My experience is that it is the briars and invasives (green briar, wild grapes, multi-flora roses and Japanese Honeysuckle) that awaken first to get a jump on the flora I prefer to have growing.
While I have power equipment, I prefer to work quieter in the forest to hear and observe wildlife. Long handle pruners and my 12-volt sawz-all take care of the grape vines. A weedwhip does enough damage to the honeysuckle and prickly plants to delay their advances. And the bending, stooping, and swinging of man-powered equipment gives me the stretching and cardio vascular exercise my doctor says I should be doing.
But my back, knees, leg and arm muscles let me know the next morning that they are not used to the rigorous movement.
There is always plenty of cleanup from the winter storms. Sticks and branches litter the property. Particularly the front yard and porch where Emma the Great Pyrenees brings up what she considers prize-winning sticks for us. They were welcome in the winter for fireplace kindling but now are just something else to throw on the burn pile for a summer wiener roast.
We had a visit from Greg, a DNR forestry consultant, recently. He returned to the wilderness to collect data on some trees he marked and measured five years ago. His GPS led us to the approximate location and then his tablet (ain’t technology in the wilderness grand?) told him what trees he had previously marked and measured. I left him to his work and returned to the house. When he came back to his vehicle he thanked me for leaving him alone. “I appreciate property owners’ cooperation but their questions always slow me down,” said forestry guru Greg. “Looks like your trees have grown from 1.1-1.7 inches in circumference these past five years.”
Greg chuckled and agreed when I replied, “Well, that’s less that our waistlines have grown over the same time period.”
The warmer weather lets me know that it is time to get the mowing equipment tuned up for spring usage. But the warm weather is to be enjoyed in other ways on this day. I sit in a deck chair watching fish feeding slowly about the lake while basking in the welcomed sunlight and contemplating it all was an attitude adjusting adult beverage.

Celebrating Your Right To Know

by Curt Kovener

Today we are in the middle of Sunshine Week 2019.
No, dear reader, this is not a week when they sun must shine and warm us up a bit…though it would be welcome. Sunshine Week, which highlights the importance of open government, was established in 2005 by the American Society of News Editors.
The timing of this week-long observance coincides with two related celebrations: the birthday of our fourth president and “father of the Constitution,” James Madison on March 16; and National Freedom of Information Day, which is set for the same day.
In simple terms, freedom of information is your right to know what your government is doing— how it spends your tax dollars, how it creates and implements policy, how it makes decisions that affect you.
Over the past several weeks we have published the annual reports of cities & towns, townships and counties. Those reports tell you the receipts (tax revenue), spending on government services, and the financial health of those governmental entities. This week, we begin publishing Annual Performance Reports for the area school systems.
Let’s say, for example, you want a copy of the budget for Crothersville, Austin or Scottsburg (or any other governmental entity). You have the right to walk into City Hall and ask for it.
And the governmental entity has to give it to you, or it must explain why it can’t.
If you request a public record in person, the governmental entity has 24 hours to respond to your request. If you make the request by mail, it has seven days.
In considering your request, the government office can’t ask why you want the information. It can’t even legally ask who you are.
If all you want to do is examine the document, you have the right to do that right there in the office. If you want a copy, the office does have the option of charging you a reasonable fee.
The fight for open government isn’t about liberals and conservatives. Freedom of information advocates come from the right and the left.
And they keep fighting the good fight year in and year out because they truly believe in a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
James Madison was a champion of the elimination of secrecy in government, which as you may have noticed lately is an issue that’s more important to highlight than ever.
Journalism and the very concept of truth have been under attack, so it’s important not to lose sight of primacy of the First Amendment in our society. When true stories public officials don’t like are called “fake news,” and when the holder of the nation’s highest office calls the free press “the enemy of the American people,” you know it’s time to stand up for these ideals.

Words To Be Guided By

by Curt Kovener

February is Black History month, so as we approach its final day, some quotes from civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are in order. There were fitting when said; they are more fitting in 2019.
Our thanks to Professor Ron Adkins for contributing these life lessons.
•The time is always right to do what is right.
•Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
•Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?”
•Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.
•Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
•Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
•Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.
•Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.
•The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.
•The quality, not the length, of one’s life is what is important.
•We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.
•We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.
•A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan.

Incivility: Just Where Are We Headed?

by Curt Kovener

“For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.” Hosea 8:7
The prophet Hosea warned the people of his nation, Old Testament Israel, that their actions had consequences, consequences that would be much worse than they could possibly expect. Think wind blowing through the trees. Then think whirlwind another term for destructive tornado.
As our public discourse somehow manages to get worse and worse almost daily, one can’t help but wonder if a whirlwind is in the offing.
There are numerous examples of elected officials doing and saying things that are contrary to how many of us were brought up. But maybe that is how many of them were brought up. And in that case, we need to talk to their Mamas on why they didn’t wash their mouths out with soap… or at least report them and their actions to their old Scoutmasters.
In a civilized society like ours purports to be, can it get any worse? Unfortunately, history tells us it can. Look to the Roman Republic, that form of government our Founding Fathers were so fond of acclaiming as a paragon of civic virtue.
In the century running roughly from 150-50 B.C., that ancient republic staggered under assaults on its institutions and cultural mores. Operating under a set of formal and informal rules, Roman politics were constrained within a boundary of acceptable behavior. Just because a tactic was technically legal under the constitution did not make it suitable for use. Called the mos maiorum or “way of the elders,” it was a society-wide gentlemen’s agreement to keep civic affairs civil.
Until, that is, one young but ambitious politician didn’t get his way. He certainly considered himself an idealist wanting only to provide a practical solution to a real problem, but the methods he used were the equivalent of starting a small snowball rolling down a long, steep slope.
Each response and counter-response escalated the snowball’s path. Public theater was the handiest tool in the astute politician’s toolbox, with the public demonstrations degrading into uncontrollable mobs. The violence meter rose progressively higher until it was no longer containable. All a politician could do was to promise more and more to the voting public and try to direct the mob’s anger toward his opponents.
Boy Howdy, if that doesn’t sound like the 21st Century.
Violence, both the verbal and the physical kind, inevitably begets more violence. Rome’s beloved republic finally died a death of a thousand cuts to be replaced by what was nothing more than a military dictatorship, sometimes ruled by a benevolent despot but mostly not.
Is this America’s path? I hope not, but I am not so optimistic about our chances. As one who grew up in the 1950’s & 60’s, I fear for where our country is heading. We can’t look to Washington for the solution because it merely reflects what we are in our local communities.
And if the leadership in Washington acts that way, it should be okay for us in small communities to do the same whether in public or on Facebook or other social media. Thus we do our part to continue the snowball rolling down the hill.
U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, (R-Neb.), wrote a book entitled ‘Them: Why We Hate Each Other and How to Heal’. His solution is one of grassroots civility and rebuilding personal relations where we live and work. It sounds Pollyanna-ish but then my recollection is that the little girl proved right in the Disney movie.
So I’m rooting for Sasse’s prescription. The alternative is too depressing to entertain, especially for a hobby historian like me who reads too much about bad things that happened in the past and knows that those who do not study history are condemned to repeat it.
So how did things work out for the nation of Israel back in the 8th century B.C.? Not well at all. They’re not called the Ten Lost Tribes without reason.– – – –
Mark Franke, a former associate vice chancellor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, contributed to this column.

I Guess That Is Why They are Called Comforters

by Curt Kovener

(This is an encore column from the Curt Comments archives.)
You had probably just finished reading your last Times of January on Wednesday evening, when I dismissed some mild stomach and queasiness as something I ate. But before long the stomach pains sharpened to occasional bolts of electricity of the 220 volt variety and I began to make frequent trips to the bathroom.
I had gotten a flu shot so I wasn’t concerned. Besides, I had planned a day in the woods clearing some trees and burning brush. Sitting at a computer most of the day, I figured working and exercising out-of-doors—even in cold temperatures—would do me some good. It would keep my mind off whatever was bothering my body and may even work it out of my system.
Sure enough, stacking and burning all afternoon and my mind didn’t wander to my stomach a single time.
But after the walk back from the work site, I was extremely worn out. By the time I dragged myself to the house I was tired and achy. Sitting on the couch a couple of shivers shook my weary body.
After another trip to the porcelain room, I came to the realization that some bug was definitely trying to wreck havoc with my body. The more I cursed my luck the more violently my chilled body shook and shivered.
I opened the antique oak blanket chest and got out Granny’s old comforter. It is a heavy, heavy bed cover pieced together with squares of recycled cloth.
There are pieces of my Gramp’s old suits, cut apart when they became worn out. There are pieces of flannel, corduroy, velveteen, and what appears to be some upholstery material all having former lives probably back as far as the early 20th century. Whatever it is stuffed with is certainly heavier than the usual quilting… perhaps a worn quilt or another comforter.
I was given the old comforter in the early 1980’s after Granny and Gramp has passed on. Granny left this life in 1967 so I know this comforter is old.
While I don’t remember her working on this particular one, as a youngster, I can recall my Granny sitting in her wooden rocking chair first cutting then pinning and finally stitching together bits of former suits, dresses, heavy curtains and robes to craft warm comforters for the kinfolks’ winter bedrooms.
These creations were like Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors, “…I thought that we were rich, because I knew of all the love that she sewed in every stitch.”
We don’t use the comforter regularly in the winter. It is old, it is an heirloom; and we don’t want to risk damaging it. But Granny’s comforter is put to use for special occasions when we are feeling ill. Maybe it’s the warmth from its sheer weight or maybe it’s the grandmotherly love reaching across the years embracing us that helps keep us warm when we’re feeling particularly puny.
After sinking between flannel sheets topped with Granny’s Comforter, I shivered a couple time more and then drifted off to a deep sleep aided in part to a couple of shots of medicinal bourbon (sorry, Granny).
The next morning I awoke not feeling any chills, my stomach didn’t hurt, and no urgent need to hurry to the bathroom.
Maybe it was just a 24-hour bug, but I prefer to think that just maybe it was the healing power of Granny’s Comforter.