September In The Morning

by Curt Kovener

September is a glorious month in the wilderness…all except for the fall pollen that periodically sends my sinuses alternatively switching from plugged up to running like the water in the creek below the dam.
While this year the month has been warmer than memory recalls, the September cooler nighttime makes for sleeping with the window open a treat. We are lulled to sleep by all the night sounds (not including the occasional snoring by all of us). Crickets, tree frogs, the occasional bullfrog, whippoorwill and, on rare occasions barred, barn, and the eerie sounding screech owls join the nocturnal chorus.
Then in the morning, after I and the sun get up for the day, songbirds flitter and twitter about (not the social media kind) looking for a breakfast of seeds and insects.
As I sit on the front porch overlooking thee lake and sip my morning coffee, the slowly awakening sky reflects hues of pink and blue on fluffy clouds that this particular morning look like a fresh plowed field of marshmallow.
The phoebes, Carolina wrens, chickadees and nuthatches flutter from the tree to the ground dining on what’s available. As the sun gets higher, they join in another symphony of praise for making it to another day.
A soft, hollow tappity-tappity-tap comes from a nearby sassafras tree as a downy woodpecker sends out a Morse code message that he, too, is seeking a morning meal of insects these hidden under the bark of the dead sassafras limb.
Too much work, not enough energy and the summer heat resulted in much of the wilderness pasture not getting mowed this season. That bit of lazy is now paying off as flocks of wild turkeys meander about the field and dam dining on the ripening grass & weed seeds. If I sit very still they pay me no mind. But if so much as I scratch my itchy nose, it puts them on alert and the slowly disappear back into the forest.
Some of the leaves of the wilderness have already fallen while others are beginning to change their masks of green to their true hues of red, yellow, and orange. When they fall they will be mulched and vacuumed into a pile to compost into future seasons’ flower and vegetable plantings.
The coming autumn brings seasonal work of more than usual mowing and weed trimming, maintenance on the tractor and mowers, and cleaning out the always cluttered barn and basement.
But for now I fetch another cup of coffee and return to the front porch vista. Work can wait while I relish the palate of nature in September.

There’s A Coming Winter Conflict

by Curt Kovener

There is a kerfuffle in the coming seasonal air and it has to do with what kind of winter we are going to have.
According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac (and we all know a number of old farmers, don’t we?), the Midwest and the entire North American continent is in for a “Polar Coaster”.
Of course this comes as no surprise to our friends in Canada who are also a part of the North American Continent (for those who are geographically challenged)…they always have #$%^ cold winters.
The almanac claims the operative words for the coming winter are freezing, frigid and frosty.
Here in Indiana the almanac claims we are in store for a frozen, snowy winter starting in January. Higher amounts of precipitation and sub-zero temperatures are heading our way in the first weeks of 2020, according to the Almanac.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac bases their prediction on established years of past weather in the country.
But does climate change, melting ice caps, ocean levels rising play into their past observances for future predictions?
There is another— and just as accurate(?)— predicter of the coming winter now seen across southern Indiana: the wooly worm. More precisely it is the wooly bear caterpillar of the Isabella Tiger Moth.
Folklore has it that if the woolly worm is all black, we are in for a severe winter. If the caterpillar is brown on the front and rear and black in the middle then a cold winter is sandwiched between a milder beginning and end. And if the wooly worm is all brown then we are in store for a mild winter.
The wooly worms I have seen crossing the highways on my travels in Jackson and Scott County are all light tan and some are bi-colored in their hues. Thus there is dissention amongst the wooly worm ranks of what kind of winter we southern Hoosiers with have. On second thought, perhaps the tan wooly worms have plans on wintering in Florida.
The accuracy of the predictions of the woolybear caterpillar is verified by the National Association of Wolly Worm Winter Weather Watchers otherwise known as NAWWWWW.
A third predictor of winter has yet to make its prognostication. Split persimmon seeds will show a spoon, knife or fork shape epicotyl (the part that becomes the first leaves and stem). According to folklore 1) a spoon indicates a lot of snow to shovel, 2) a fork meaning a mild winter, 3) or knife indicating coming cutting cold.
But the persimmons seeds aren’t talking yet as the fruit remains hard, green and puckery in the Hoosier wilderness. As soon a cooler weather prompts ripening and dropping of the tasty fruit, another predictor of the coming winter will enter the fray.
But we southern Hoosiers can all be assured that the year’s weather prediction can be summed up in a springtime warming spell, followed by a seasonal hot spell, followed by a cooling trend, following by a cold spell all lasting about 3-4 months…give or take.

Man, Am I Old!?!

by Curt Kovener

“What was your favorite fast food when you were growing up?” a middle school aged youngster asked me.
“We didn’t have fast food when I was growing up,” I informed him. “All the food was slow.”
“C’mon, seriously? Where did you eat?”
“It was a place called ‘at home’,” I explained.
“My Mom cooked everyday and when Dad got home from work, we sat down together at the kitchen table, and if I didn’t like what she put on my plate I was allowed to sit there until I did.”
I didn’t tell him the part about how I had to ask permission to leave the table. Or if I didn’t eat what she prepared, it would be on my breakfast plate the next morning.
But there are some other things I would have told him about my childhood if I figured his mind could handle it.
Some parents never owned their own house, wore blue jeans, set foot on a golf course, traveled outside the country or had a credit card. And debit cards weren’t even invented yet. In their later years they had something called a revolving charge card. The card was only good are Sears & Roebuck. But then Roebuck must have died because it became just Sears. And now Sears is dead. And Penney’s, the other revolving charge card provider, isn’t too healthy either.
My parents never drove me to soccer practice. This was primarily because we never heard of soccer. I got to my Little League practice by using a bicycle. I had a bicycle that weighed probably 50 pounds and had only one speed…as fast as I wanted to pedal.
We did have a television in our house. It was a square black and white model that sat on a table. We were able to receive three channels, two out of Louisville and Channel 4 out of Bloomington/Indianapolis. Channel 4 had the best cartoons, Popeye & Janie, Cowboy Bob, and later as I got older I got to watch scary movies hosted by Sammy Terry.
Of course the very best show was the weekend TV rasslin’ matches with Dick the Bruiser, Bobo Brazil, and Cowboy Bob…a different one from the cartoon show host.
I remember when I tasted my first pizza, though then it was called ‘pizza pie.’ There wasn’t a pizza joint on nearly every corner. The best pizza back then came from the old Tony’s & Pauly’s restaurant & pub in Scottsburg. When I bit into it, I burned the roof of my mouth. Then the cheese slid off, swung down and plastered itself against my chin and burned that, too.
And unless Dad brought one home, pizzas were not delivered to our home. But milk was. All newspapers were delivered by boys and nearly every boy at some time delivered newspapers.
I never had a phone in my room. The only phone in the house was on a stand in the hallway and it was a party line. Before you could dial—a rotary dial not a push button— you had to listen and make sure other people weren’t already using the phone. And if they were we were not to listen in but quietly hangup quickly. Though sometimes Mom didn’t.
If you grew up in a generation before there was fast food (though, admittedly, even the places today that claim to be fast food are not anymore), you may want to share some of these historical narratives with the grandchildren or the neighbor’s kids if your grandkids won’t pay attention to you. Someone needs to hear this stuff.
But don’t be surprised if they break out laughing and simply don’t believe the memories you share.
Growing up isn’t what it used to be.

Wisdom of One-Liners

by Curt Kovener

This is an encore column from the Curt Comments archives.
•Conscience is what huts when everything else feels good.
•Talk is cheap because supply exceeds demand.
•Stupidity got us into this mess—what can’t it get us out?
•Love is grand; divorce is a hundred grand.
•Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there.
•Legislators and diapers have one thing in common. They should be changed regularly and for the same reason.
•An optimist thinks that this is the best possible world. A pessimist fears that is true.
•There is always death and taxes; however death doesn’t get worse every year.
•People will accept your ideas much more readily if you tell them that Benjamin Franklin said it first.
•I don’t mind going anywhere as long as it’s an interesting path.
•Anything free is worth what you pay for it.
•Sometimes it hurts to be on the cutting edge.
•If it ain’t broke, fix it until it is.
•I don’t get even, I get odder.
•I always wanted to be a procrastinator; I just never got around to it.
•I am not obese; I am a nutritional overachiever.
•My inferiority complex is not as good as yours.
•I am having an out-of-money experience.
•I am in shape. Round is a shape.
•If marriage were outlawed, only outlaws would have in-laws.
•I am not a perfectionist. My parents were, though.
•You’re getting old when you get the same sensation from a rocking chair that you once got from a roller coaster.
•Another of life’s mysteries is how a two-pound box of candy can make you gain five pounds.
•The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right time, but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.
•Time may be a great healer, but it’ a lousy beautician.
•Age doesn’t always bring wisdom. For some people, sometimes age comes alone.
•Life not only begins at 40, it begins to show.
And perhaps the whole purpose of this week’s column…
•You don’t stop laughing because you grow old; you grow old because you stopped laughing.

Some Things On Which To Contemplate

by Curt Kovener
(This is an encore column from the Curt Comments archives published in the last millennium. But durned, if it doesn’t seem like it could have been penned just last week.)
The paradox of our time is history is that we have taller buildings, but shorter tempers; wider interstates, but narrower viewpoints; we spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy it less.
We have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; we have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgment; more experts, but more problems; more medicine, but less wellness.
We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry too quickly, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too seldom, watch TV too much, and pray not nearly enough until the devil is at our unlocked door.
We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life, but not life to our years.
We’ve been to the moon and back but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.
We’ve conquered outer space, but not inner peace. We’ve done larger things, but not better things. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We’ve split the atom, but not our prejudice
We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We have higher incomes, but lower values. We build more computers to hold more information, but have less real communication.
We’ve become long on quantity, but short on quality.
These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion; large people and short character; steep profits and shallow relationships.
These are the times of more leisure, but less fun; more kinds of food, but less nutrition. These are days of fancier houses, but broken homes.
These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer to quiet to kill.
It is a time when there is much in the show window and nothing in the stockroom.
It is a time when you can choose either to make a difference, or do nothing but continue to hope someone else does.

We All Quote The Bard Of Avon

by Curt Kovener

William Shakespeare devised new words and phrases that still appear in our everyday life. Famous quotes from his plays are easily recognizable; “To be or not to be,” “Wherefore art thou, Romeo,” and “et tu, Brute?”. But an incredible number of lines from his plays have become so ingrained into modern vernacular that we no longer recognize them as lines from plays at all. Even if you didn’t pay attention in high school literature class, here are phrases you use but may not have known came from the Bard of Avon.
“Wild Goose Chase” originated from Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene IV and the term didn’t originally refer to actual geese, but rather a type of horse race.
“Seen Better Days” from As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII
Shakespeare was a fan of the phrase; he uses “seen better days” in As You Like It, and then again in Timon of Athens.
“Forever and a Day” also from As You Like It, Act IV, Scene I. We have the Bard to thank for this perfect fodder for Valentine’s Day cards and middle school students’ love songs.
“Fair Play” from The Tempest, Act V, Scene I. Prospero’s daughter never would have been able to predict that “fair play” is used more often now in sports than it is for the negotiation of kingdoms.
“Lie Low” originated from Much Ado About Nothing, Act V, Scene I. Shakespeare’s plays contain brilliant wisdom that still applies today. In “lie low,” he concocted the perfect two-word PR advice for every celebrity and politician embroiled in a scandal.
“It’s Greek to Me” from Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene II. This phrase might possibly be the most intelligent way of telling someone that you have absolutely no idea what’s going on.
“Love Is Blind” from The Merchant of Venice, Act II, Scene VI. The phrase wasn’t popular until Shakespeare wrote it down. Now, “love is blind” serves as the three-word explanation for any seemingly unlikely couple.
“Be-All, End-All” from Macbeth, Act I, Scene VII. Macbeth uses the phrase just as he’s thinking about assassinating King Duncan and, ironically, as anyone who’s familiar with the play knows, the assassination doesn’t turn out to be the “end all” after all.
“Heart of Gold” originated in Henry V, Act IV, Scene I. Turns out, the phrase “heart of gold” existed before Douglas Adams used it as the name of the first spaceship to use the Infinite Improbability Drive in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or Neal Young turned it into a searching song.
“Kill With Kindness” came from The Taming of the Shrew, Act IV, Scene 1. Petrucio said “This is a way to kill a wife with kindness, and thus I’ll curb her mad and headstrong ways.” The Shakespeare canon would contain a lot fewer dead bodies if his characters all believed they should kill their enemies with kindness instead of knives and poison.
“Live Long Day” from Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene I. The phrase pre-dates steel wheeled travel and is pretty much not exclusively reserved for those who have been working on the railroad.
“The Game is Afoot” came Henry V, Act III, Scene I. It wasn’t Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who coined this phrase—Sherlock Holmes’ most famous catchphrase comes from Henry V, although both characters do often tend to find themselves around dead bodies.
See there? And you thought high school literature was useless.