I Did Not Mean To Disrespect the Flag …And Maybe You Didn’t Either

by Curt Kovener

If there are not naturally occurring weather crisis, wildfires, hurricane damage assistance, nuclear finger pointing, computer hacking then there are conjured up crisis du jour since January 20.
Now there are a bunch of Washington types, led by the President and VP, with their knickers in a knot because some football players are not standing for the National Anthem. The high profile athletes are not standing as a way to bringing attention to the injustice of the significantly high number of police shootings of black citizens because the victims are not high profile.
Rather than look at the root cause of the high profile player protest, the two elected national leaders who have never served a day in the military, want to talk about disrespecting the flag.
I was taught during my years in the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts to stand when the flag passes by and for the playing for the National Anthem.
Sometimes that is just not possible.
There are radio stations that will occasionally play a four part harmony version of the Star Spangled Banner. I suppose they do so to show their support for the flag and to be patriotic.
But when listening to the radio driving down the interstate at 70 mph, it just doesn’t seem like a good idea to pull over, get out of my truck, and stand while traffic goes whizzing by wondering what is wrong with me. They probably are not listening to the radio but talking on their phones or texting or tweeting.
Then there are those pickup trucks with the American and Confederate flags affixed to their pick up beds driving about. Like the professional football player, they are expressing their right to free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment. The flag maybe passing by me but I cannot safely stand with a semi filling my rearview mirror.
And— an embarassing confession— there have been times I have been caught in the men’s room before an athletic event. I was standing when the anthem was being played, but not at attention. At least not in that way. Perhaps the President would say I should have planned better but I know my bladder better than he does, I think.
The appearance of disrespecting the flag is a non-negotiable point with members of the VFW and American Legion. I get that. They served this country in one of the branches of service.
Back on the home front, I was the director of the Crothersville Red, White & Blue Festival for 16 years…a festival which is billed as “Indiana’s Most Patriotic Festival.” I have served what is equivalent to four presidential terms to promote a lot of red, white & blue flag waving. All the while having served as much time in the military as our Commander in Chief and his second in command.
It was also during my youthful scouting days that respect for the flag was taught.
But even today as I drive about the community and the county I see people disrespecting the flag. Atop a number of flag poles in the front yards & in front of businesses I pass are flags that are no longer red, white & blue but pink, gray and in tatters by the wind, rain and neglect. Flags that long ago should have been exchanged for new ones and those that are past their service respectfully and ceremonially incinerated.
Maybe Vice President Pence gets more national exposure for walking out of a football game when some opposing team players took a knee (the President takes credit saying he told him to do it). But wouldn’t it have more meaning if on his next trip back to his home state that convoy of armored black SUVs with tinted windows pulled into the driveway of a tatter, faded flag waver to shame them for disrespecting the flag?
Don’t worry. It won’t happen. By the time you are reading this there will be yet another crisis du jour to distract us from the important stuff.

Some Of Life’s Confounding Questions

by Curt Kovener

Now that I am a member of the gray hair and Medicare Club, I have been around long enough to compile some perplexing and confounding questions on the world in which we live.
I’m not talking about ‘What’s the meaning of life?’ or ‘Does the Universe have an end? And if it doesn’t, Why?’ or ‘Why are all areas of government from federal to Indiana to Jackson County controlled by the GOP and still we can’t all get along?’
No, I am talking about the important stuff of life like…
•Why is the third hand on the watch called the second hand?
•If a word is misspelled in a dictionary, how would we ever know?
•If Webster wrote the first dictionary, where did he find the words?
•Why do we say something is out of whack? What is a whack? And how do we get back in to whack?
•Why do ‘tug’ boats push their barges?
•Why do they sing ‘Take me out to the ball game’, when they are already there?
•Why are they called ‘stands’ when they’re made for sitting?
•Why is it called ‘after dark’, when it is really after light?
•Doesn’t ‘expecting the unexpected’ make the unexpected expected?
•Why do overlook and oversee mean opposite things?
•Why is phonics not spelled the way it sounds?
•If work is so terrific, how come they have to pay you to do it?
•If all the world is a stage, where is the audience sitting?
•Why do we put suits in a garment bag and put garments in a suitcase?
•Why do we drive on a parkway and park on a driveway?
•Why is bra singular and panties plural?

Words We Weren’t Taught But Learned Anyway

by Curt Kovener

Vocabulary was a sub-subject of high school English that Mrs. Lewis always stressed. There was a very thick dictionary in her room that we were encouraged to use.

Today, there is online Wikopedia for word definitions since we all seem to be wired to our computers.

But the following vocabulary words and phrases may have come from ‘Wacko-pedia.’

Calories: Tiny creatures that live in your closet and sew your clothes a little bit tighter every night.

Synonym: A word used in place of the one you can’t spell.

Money can’t buy happiness: a phrase used by most of us to help curb our jealousy of the rich.

Feet: A device used for finding Legos® in the dark.

Irish Handcuffs: When a person is carrying an alcoholic beverage in both hands at the same time.

Web MD: Something that makes a mild cold into a deadly disease that will kill you within 24 hours.

Balanced diet: One cheeseburger in each hand.

That’s nice: A phrase to say when you are talking on the phone and you zone out in the middle of the other person’s story.

Laziness: Risking to drop everything you carry rather than walking twice.

Brain: Something we all have but most do not use…at least very well.

English: A language that lurks in dark alleys, beats up other languages and rifles through their pockets for spare vocabulary.

Best friends: The people you can get mad at only for a short period of time because you have important stuff to tell them.

Cell phone: A device used for looking less alone while in public places by yourself.

Golf: An excuse for old fat men to say they still play a sport.

Pets: The only members of your family you really like.

Poor: When you have too much month at the end of your money.

Tomorrow: The best time to do everything you had planned for today.

Vegetarian: 1) A bad hunter. 2) Someone who survives by consuming not food but the stuff that food eats.

Single: A man who makes jokes about women in the kitchen.

Fall Fell But The Temperatures Did Not

by Curt Kovener

Fall officially began across Hoosier land last Thursday with the Autumnal Equinox but the thermometer remained near 90°. While the calendar says it is officially fall, the wilderness has been giving signs of the changing seasons for several weeks.
Some black gum trees have shown tinges of red and sassafras show their hope to become yellow-orange before long.
Some maples and yellow poplars have foregone much color change and their leaves have flittered to the ground and the wilderness retreat’s back deck. It now requires nearly daily sweeping and blowing.
The oak tree that overhangs the roof will occasionally release an acorn, which makes a dull plunk on the roof, then rolls down before plunking again and bouncing on the previously clean rear deck.
Willow the cat will look at the ceiling and follow the rolling acorn on its path as if it might be some tasty rodent in the house. Emma the Great Pyrenees merely barks a protective bark. She does a lot of that at forest sounds.
The paw-paw crop was paltry this year with only enough found for a fresh fall fruit treat. Paw-paws are the earliest trees to bloom in the spring; their bronze bell shaped blooms open before bees and other pollinators come out of their winter slumber. The large numbers of flowers in the spring are not necessarily a harbinger of a plentiful harvest.
Persimmons, on the other hand, are in abundance; the trees’ limbs hanging heavy with yellow blush fruit. Over the next few weeks the now puckery fruit will ripen to a dark orange, lose their astringency and sweeten up before falling to the ground.
I’ve found late afternoon to be the best time for gathering persimmons as there will be the day’s droppings to gather before the night time woodland residents feast on the fruit.
And my favorite fall activity, gathering huge Hoosier hickory nuts will get into full swing in a few weeks with cooling temperatures and gusty winds to dislodge the nuts. An early venture to my hickory honey hole revealed a few good size nuts already on the ground and a good number more waiting on weather to dislodge them from the tree.
And fall also brings down the leaves—and believe me when I say we’ve got plenty of leaves— which get mulched and stacked into piles for decomposing into good tilthy garden soil.

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.