Our Collective Wisdom

by Curt Kovener

It has been a while since we visited ‘The Wisdom of the Midwest’, a collection of quotes of common sense and uncommon genius from people who grew up as middle Americans.
“Education is not preparation for life. It is life itself.” ~John Dewey
“Absorb ideas from every source.” ~Thomas Edison
“Knowledge is not power. It is potential power. What’s needed is the ability to motivate yourself to do what you know needs doing.” ~W. Clement Stone
“Time is a great teacher.” ~Carl Sandburg
“The trouble with the world is not that people know so little, but that they know so many things that ain’t so.” ~Mark Twain
“A closed mind is a dying man.” ~Edna Ferber
“A good scare is worth more than good advice.” ~Edgar Watson Howe
“The only thing new in this world is the history you don’t know.” ~Harry S. Truman
“I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” ~Ernest Hemingway
“Technology does not improve the quality of life; it improves the quality of things. Improving the quality of life requires the application of wisdom.” ~Neil Armstrong
“Lord, deliver me from the man who never makes a mistake, and also from the man who makes the same mistake twice.” ~William Mayo
“Excesses ultimately, inevitably, are their own undoing.” ~Paul Harvey
“The truth is more important than the facts.” ~Frank Lloyd Wright
“What I have learned growing up is that we have power over words, not the other way around.” ~Tim Allen
“You can tell the size of a man by the size of the thing it takes to make him mad.” ~Adlai Stevenson
“Egotism is the anesthetic that lulls the pain of stupidity.” ~Frank Leahy
“Always keep an open mind and a compassionate heart.” ~ Phil Jackson
All wisdom inspired by Middle Americans, but unheard and unheeded, by our nation’s leadership.

Retirement Can Be A Good Thing

by Curt Kovener

The Times is losing another longtime colleague and friend. I had mixed emotions when told of Postmaster Carolyn King’s pending retirement this Friday.
She has been around having a hand at delivering your weekly newspaper as long as the Times has been in business. She started at the post office in December 1980 the same month the Times began publishing its first issue.
I will miss my friend and news deliverer colleague. I will miss her ever cheerful disposition. She could be having a really bad day, feeling ill, dealing with whatever family thing cropped up at home but you would never know if from her cheerful greeting when you entered the Crothersville Post Office doors.
Believe me, she knew when I was having one of those seemingly all too frequent bad days, and sought to bring a bit of sunshine and humor to try to improve my day.
Her retirement probably breaks a string of locally residing postmasters for Crothersville. When she and the Times began in 1980 Crothersville’s John Dorsey was the postmaster. When he became the postmaster in Brownstown, Crothersville native Cheryl Trisler became the postmaster. And when Cheryl retired in 1998, Carolyn was named the Officer In Charge before officially being named Crothersville Postmaster.
When she said she wasn’t sure what she would do in retirement, I pointed out that both of her preceding postmasters went on to other careers after postal retirement. That caused her to offer a hopeful smile.
I guess you could say that I am responsible for her being named the head of the local post office. Her competence and friendly customer service not withstanding, I wrote a letter of recommendation to her postal supervisor supporting her elevation to lead the local post office.
Well, me and a dozen or so other local businesses that sent letters of recommendation, that is.
Over the years, there have been challenges to how the post office does business with periodical class mail like the Times.
At first we turned in a hand written mail reports monthly making sure a check was delivered the first of each month leaving an account balance sufficient to deliver your Times. Then the postal supervisors said they wanted a report every week. Then they said they wanted the report computer generated using software that they approved. (No, they didn’t provide it, we had to buy it and pay for the updates.) And at one point a couple of postal auditors wanted to argue with the results of the required USPS certified software generated Times report. After two guys each spent six hours one day to find a 12¢ discrepancy, I could quickly figure why the post office was losing money. Fortunately, those guys are retired.
So retirement can be a good thing.
I am disappointed to report that Carolyn broke a mutual promise we made to one another in September 1998. When she was named Crothersville Postmaster—the person in charge of seeing that I abided by postal periodical regulations and seeing that you received your copy of the times each Wednesday—we privately agreed that we would retire together.
Oh well, the Times has outlived three postmasters’ tenure—a remarkable feat in today’s newspaper publishing world. I suppose we can break in a fourth one. But do one count on a fifth. At this stage of my unretired career, I will probably drink it.
For Carolyn, no more getting up at 5 a.m. to be in the office by 6:30. There’ll be spending more time with family in Florida, having more time to do what she wants to do rather than deal with and implement the latest USPS initiative: Retirement can be a good thing.

The Grassroots Role Of The Press

This week we turn over this column space to a friend and colleague—a newspaper reporter, editor and owner spanning a 50-year career. Joseph F. Persinger penned this piece on the importance of locally owned, hometown newspapers. Persinger formerly worked for the Seymour Tribune when it was locally owned and owned the Brownstown Banner here in Jackson County.
–    –    –    –
When train travel began to replace the big river paddle-wheelers, Mark Twain found himself out of work.
“I needed a job,” he said, “but I didn’t want to work, so I became a journalist.”
That’s funny, but in my experience it’s not true.
In 50 years as a journalist, I knew many, many reporters, photographers, and editors who worked hard and long hours for not much money to keep folks informed about things going on in their community.
Especially in smaller towns, most journalists I have known took very seriously their role as the eyes and ears of all those who were unable or unwilling to attend school board meeting, town council meeting, court news, groundbreaking ceremony or other community events.
They knew their reporting would become part of the local historical record, and they did their best to be as accurate as humanly possible.
They kept citizens informed about how their tax dollars were being spent, who was being hired for county or city jobs or construction projects, and whether public business was being conducted in an open and honest manner.
That responsibility hasn’t changed and is still being fulfilled by legitimate news gathering organizations in towns and cities all across America.
We should all be thankful that, so far at least, we still have a free and independent Press.

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.