Bigger Is Not Always Better

by Curt Kovener

Size does indeed matter. But bigger is sometimes a detriment.

At 6’7” I have difficulty finding clothes. With a size 14 foot, there is also difficulty finding shoes. And I don’t fit in just any vehicle comfortably.

But enough about me.

The State Chamber of Commerce wants schools smaller than 2,000 enrollment to merge to improve test scores and student performance. I am not so sure of that correlation. If I can’t swim so well in my backyard pool will I swim better in the crowded larger municipal pool? Read two stories on our front page this week for differing views on that topic.

The State Chamber of Commerce is a legislative lobbying organization for its members who own & run businesses. They lobby for things like decreased taxes, decreased regulation, and improved government infrastructure to benefit business. Their members pay them dues annually to do this. And some of those dues are more than four figures each year. So you have to factor in a cost/benefit.

It should go without saying that a one-man newspaper in a one-stoplight town can’t afford their membership dues and wouldn’t get much benefit from the organization. But they would take my money if offered and send me a nice window decal to display to prove I am in business.

Now look up and down the main business district of Crothersville and ask yourself “I wonder how many of the few businesses left in town are members of the state chamber?”

That answer would be none.

If a lobbying firm does what it’s dues paying members want, and few to none of their members are from small communities, interests of small communities, business or otherwise, are left in the lurch. The small town voices get drowned out by the big city boys & girls.

Bigger is better? Methinks the fix is in.

Inspired By Washington Leaders

by Curt Kovener

I have an old book of inspirational quotes from people from the Mid-West. Granted, it’s a pretty big region but I still like the wisdom of a Mid-Westerner. I wished those serving us(?) in Washington would pay attention.

“Absorb ideas from every source,” ~Thomas Edison

“There are things worth learning after you think you know it all,” ~Harry S Truman.

“Man has much to learn from nature,” ~Walt Disney

“Time is a great teacher,” ~Carl Sandburg

“Tomorrow comes to us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives, and it puts itself in our hands and hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday,” ~John Wayne

“The trouble with the world is not that people know so little, but that they say so many things that ain’t so.” ~Mark Twain

“Not to engage in the pursuit of ideas is to live like ants instead of men,” ~Mortimer Adler

“There is no force so powerful as an idea whose time has come,” Everett Dirksen

“Thinking is one thing they’ve never been able to tax,” ~Charles Kettering

“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

“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 dulls the pain of stupidity,” ~Frank Leahy

“Always keep an open mind and a compassionate heart,” ~Phil Jackson

An Early Woodland Memory

by Curt Kovener

(Squirrel hunting season begins next week and here is a recollection from the Curt Comments archives.)
I felt something shaking my foot through the covers of my bed. I really didn’t want to open my eyes because it seemed they had only drifted off to sleep just moments before.
Then there was that foot shaking again followed by a raspy half-whisper so not to awaken by brother sleeping in the next bed over “You going to go huntin’?” my dad asked.
Immediately my eyes popped open. That was why I couldn’t fall asleep. Knowing Dad & I were going squirrel hunting the next morning had wired my 11-year-old mind better than any caffeine could have. Sleep just wouldn’t come in anticipation of my first squirrel hunt.
I threw back the bed sheet on that early mid-August day over 50 years ago, grabbed my hunting clothes which I had laid out the night before.
As I got to the kitchen, Dad was going through an early squirrel hunting morning ritual. “You want some coffee?” he asked as he let the hot water run from the tap and dumped a spoonful of instant coffee into a cup.
Figuring that was what all hunters did as a part of their pre-hunt ritual, I yawned with a sleepy-eyed “Yeah.”
He put the guns in the old Dodge truck, and as we drove to Grandpa’s woods, I drank the bitter, tepid beverage hoping that maybe someday I’d get accustomed the taste.
We always hunted Grandpa’s woods near Dudleytown. It was nearly level, plenty of beech and hickory trees, and Grandpa kept it mowed to keep a good pasture for the cows he had grazing throughout the summer.
There was plenty of food for the squirrels, the walking and moving was easy and we didn’t have to worry too much about making excessive noise because the squirrels were accustomed to all the cows.
Dad used a 12 ga. pump shotgun. He handed me a .22/.410 over and under. “If you can get a good bead on one use the rifle. If you miss, bust him out with the shotgun,” he told me.
We had talked for days before and he told me the best way to hunt was to find a comfortable place to sit so I could see several likely trees and wait for the limbs to start moving or cuttings to start falling and follow them up to find the squirrel.
He went over gun safety and making sure not to shoot at anything on the ground or running up a tree and to be sure of my target before squeezing the trigger.
“Be careful and good luck” he said as he creeped through the woods to his favorite spot to hunt.
The late-summer early dawn air was thick with humidity and sweet with the smell of ripening corn just a field away. The dew was so heavy my pants had been soaked from the knees down before we got halfway from the truck to the woods.
I sat at the base of a hollow beech tree, cradled by the large sprawling roots and waited for some more sunlight to arrive. I looked to the treetops and, being new at hunting, wasn’t real sure just what I was looking for.
But I would remember over and over what Gramp and my Dad had told me: “Listen for the sound of water dripping through the leaves. It’s either a squirrel cutting on a nut or a squirrel moving through the tree branches.”
It wouldn’t be long before I heard that sound and could add another possibility its cause: birds. Birds could get a squirrel hunter’s adrenaline flowing only to end up being a fickle lover when you found their true identity.
Sometimes when you try to concentrate on the silence of the woods, listening for a faint giveaway sound of game, you hear things that aren’t there.
Like that sound of water dripping through the trees that I was hearing…or thought I was hearing. No, I was hearing it.
I searched the nearby treetops moving only my eyes looking for its source. Finally I acquiesced and moved my head around trying to see where that sound was coming from.
Then some white and green tinged shreddings of hickory nut hull fell just within arm’s reach of me. I contorted my head and eventually my whole body—at least as much as an 11-year-old who has never hunted can—to search for that squirrel.
Finally, with my body stretched out at an impossible angle to hold for a steady shot, I saw a bit of bushy auburn tail.
And my heart began pounding even harder. Knowing that if I moved for a better shot angle the squirrel would be gone. I decided to lie flat on my back on the ground. I could seek a bushy tail flick as more and more hickory hulls peppered all around me. But with the iron sights, I couldn’t see any part of the squirrel to take a shot.
“Be sure of your target” I remember Dad telling me more times than one.
Not wanting to be embarrassed by missing the first squirrel I ever spotted and shot at, I made what I thought was a pretty logical decision for my age and experience: use the shotgun.
So I clicked down to the .410 barrel, laid back on the forest floor, and after a bit of wavering, drew a solid bead on the general location of the vital parts of the squirrel.
It would not be for several years later in Mr. Bard’s physics class that I would be introduced to Newton’s laws of motion. Specifically about any action requiring an equal and opposite reaction. The ground doesn’t move with the recoil of a small shotgun.
All I knew at the time was my arm, my shoulder, my collar bone hurt like the dickens. But up I jumped as soon as I heard a nearby thud on the ground.
Dad said as he walked up all he saw was a broad, beaming smile picking up his first squirrel.

Hiding In Plain Site

by Curt Kovener

Have you checked how much any of your units of local government want to spend next year? It’s right there for you to see on a web site, you know.
In 2014, then-Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed a law passed by the Indiana legislature that eliminated newspaper notice of local government budgets. Before the law was enacted, all local government units in Indiana— from cities & towns and counties to libraries and fire districts districts— were required to publish their annual budget proposals and estimated tax rates in a local newspaper.
Now they are only required to post them on the website of the state’s Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF), which was the main proponent of the new law.
Each year since the new law passed, the Hoosier State Press Association (HSPA) has asked the agency for traffic data for the Budget Notices for Local Government page on its website. To its credit, DLGF voluntarily provided the following numbers:
Last half of 2014– 4,600 unique visitors
Last half of 2015– 5,500 unique visitors
Last half of 2016– 7,000 unique visitors
In case you’re wondering, those aren’t daily or weekly or monthly traffic figures. Those numbers reflect the TOTAL visits to the page for each entire six-month period.
For comparison, for the first three months of 2017 this newspaper’s website that you are reading right now, where we place all pubic notice ads found in print had 4,745 unique visitors, according to statistics found on our Google Analytics page. A six-month extrapolation would have your “best little newspaper in town” approaching 10,000 visitors.
And as puny as the DLGF’s public notice visits are they actually overstate the number of Indiana citizens who now receive notice of their government’s proposed budgets.
First, like most websites a significant portion of DLGF’s website traffic is generated by Google search referrals from people who live outside of the state. So the unique visitor totals provided by DLGF are inflated by the incidence of non-residents who visit the page. And of course, public notice laws aren’t designed for the benefit of non-residents.
Second, DLGF directs local public officials to check its website every year to make sure their budgets are posted, according to HSPA Executive Director Steve Key. Since Indiana has 2,000+ local government units, it also suggests that much of the non-foreign traffic to DLGF’s budget page may very well come from government officials.
One is left to wonder: Has anyone in Indiana who doesn’t work for the government or media read any of the proposed budgets submitted by local government units since the new law took effect in 2014? Have you?
Meanwhile, consider that HSPA’s American Opinion Research study in 2014 found that 3.8 million Hoosiers read at least one newspaper per week. It’s also worth noting that budget notices are almost impossible to miss when they’re published in a newspaper. At a minimum, they generally occupy several columns on a page and contain bold text and lines of numbers that jump out at the average reader.
So when Mike Pence signed the law eliminating newspaper notice of proposed budgets, the state of Indiana traded a medium that by its very nature promotes effective notice for one that does not. And it swapped 3.8 million potential readers for, at best, a handful of highly motivated citizens. If you wanted to wrest control of local tax and budget processes from regular citizens in order to hand it to politicians, lobbyists and activists, this would be a great way to start.
This isn’t the way public notice is supposed to work.
(Our thanks to Richard Karpel of the Public Notice Resource Center for the research for this column.)

Will Sunday Sales Finally Get Consistent?

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

Figuring out Indiana’s confusing, incomprehensible and outdated alcohol laws is enough to drive a person to drink.
You can’t buy carry out liquor on Sunday but you can buy it by the drink. You can buy a bottle of wine at a Indiana winery but not the same bottle at a pharmacy or big box store but you can’t buy a six-pack of cold beer at a liquor store but you can buy a growler of cold beer at a craft brewery. And you can taste sample beer and wine at Hoosier craft breweries and wineries seven days a week.
And no cold beer if you’re buying from a convenience store but you can buy warm beer there but never on a Sunday.
Phew!!! Understand? Neither do we.
The state’s confounding, confusing liquor laws— most notably its antiquated ban on Sunday carryout sales— have been in need of overhaul for years. No, it’s nowhere near the most pressing issue facing Indiana, but as any Hoosier who’s wanted to grab a bottle of wine while picking up groceries on a Sunday afternoon can tell you, it’s inconvenient and annoying. Almost as annoying as a 20-something cashier asking a Medicare Card carrier his/her date of birth when buying alcohol and blaming the Excise Police for the inconvenience.
A poll last month found that an overwhelming majority of Indiana residents favor expanding cold beer sales in the state and allowing carryout sales on Sunday.
Change may finally be coming, according to a member of the legislative summer study group tasked with untangling the outdated snarl of laws.
State Senator Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, says he expects Sunday sales to happen. Indeed, he believes that dealing with this piece of the alcohol issue— “getting that over and off our plate”— ought to be a priority.
Supporters of lifting the Prohibition-era ban may be forgiven for thinking “Here we go again” at Alting’s prediction. For years, there’s been talk of lifting the ban; for years strong opposition from the state’s powerful liquor store lobby (surprisingly not the churches) has helped keep it in place. Just two years ago, a sponsor of a bill to legalize Sunday alcohol sales announced that “Prohibition is over” — only to pull his bill a month later for lack of support.
There’s no good reason for banning Sunday liquor sales by retail stores in Indiana. The state long ago gave up the notion that alcohol may not be sold on Sunday, and for years it has been available by the drink in bars and restaurants. So the store sales ban isn’t really a “blue law” anymore in the traditional sense. Instead, it’s a law that favors one type of business (package liquor stores) over another (grocery, pharmacy, and convenience stores).
For those of us in Southern Indiana, we can travel across the Ohio River into Kentucky any buy alcohol on Sunday. That’s a fact that ought to knot the knickers of the pro-business Republicans in charge of all Hoosier state government.
It would be good if the party that supports removing government regulation and restriction, the party that supports free enterprise and business, the party that controls both the Indiana House, Senate and Governor’s office would live up to their campaign slogans and promises.
But after years of fruitless attempts to change the status quo, yet another failure wouldn’t be a surprise.
But we hope not.
(We thank our friends at the South Bend Tribune for contributing to the research for this column.)

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.