Everything But The Squeal

by Curt Kovener

(This is an encore column from the Curt Comments archives.)
Most of us are formulating our menus for our Thanksgiving meal next week. Some of you may take the opportunity to go out for the holiday meal; some of you may be more of a traditionalist.
In trying to come up with what I will be bringing to my family table, my memory banks took me back to more than half a century ago to my Grandma & Grandpa’s farm. It was in the cool part of the fall when a hog would be butchered; something that my grandpa never let me witness because of the sights I would see. Today, this son of an undertaker finds Grandpa’s over protective shielding a bit humorous in light of what I saw and did helping my dad.
Howver, Grandma had me help scrape & wash hog intestines for sausage casing.
After the hog became parted into parts, they were prepared for curing. Other parts were cut into smaller useable pieces, meat was scraped from the skull and ground into sausage…something else Grandma thought I ought to experience. Then there was stuffing the sausage into the scraped and cleaned hog gut.
There was a smokehouse at grandpa’s farm. It was a small block building about the size of a small yard barn today. I remember watching him use a hatchet …the same one which he used to separate a chicken’s head from its neck for grandma to prepare for Sunday dinner… to chop dry hickory kindling into chips. These he tossed into a bucket of water to soak.
After rubbing coarse salt on hams, shoulders, bacon and sausage, he started a small fire in a metal pan. When the fire was just red coals, he piled on the wet but dried (isn’t that an oxymoron?) hickory chips and shut the smokehouse door.
He checked on it every morning when he went out to milk and added more chips. He did a lot of work without his grandson’s help because the work got done quicker without my help.
His nosey grandson was ordered to never open the smokehouse door unless Grandpa was around. And being the obedient grandson, I complied.
One afternoon he took me to the smokehouse (as opposed to the woodshed) to check on the meat curing process. I was in awe of the lengths of sausage horizontally coiled over a broomstick size stick of lumber hanging from the rafters and the hams, shoulders and bacon on the wooden shelf coated with a layer of salt. The formerly fresh butchered pink meat covered in white fat and skin was now delicious shades of gold and brown. And the aroma of the fresh hickory smoked meats made my salivary glands to kick into gear.
Grandpa pulled out his pocketknife (the same one he used to castrate the hog which now was in the smokehouse) and carved off a couple of slivers of meat from a ham for he and me to taste test.
He smiled and nodded that the meat needed no more smoking and would just be left in the smokehouse for nature’s refrigeration for the winter.
That salty sliver of smoked ham from my youth still makes my memory’s mouth water. For many years after grandpa and grandma passed, I would open the door of the old smoke house and breathe deeply of the lingering aroma of hickory smoke and smile at the memories it replayed.

Nothing Matters…And What If It Did?

by Curt Kovener

Now that the election is over, it doesn’t matter whether your candidate won or lost. The prophet John coined the title of this column: remember it often.
And remember some of these when you’re feeling low…and especially when you’re feeling high & mighty.
•Accept the fact that some days you’re the pigeon, and some days you’re the statue.
•Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.
•Always read stuff that will make you look impressive if you die in the middle of it.
•If you can’t be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.
•Always be nice to people on your way up because you durned sure will meet them again on your way down.
•If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.
•It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others.
•Never buy a car you can’t push.
•Never put both feet in your mouth at the same time, because then you won’t have a leg to stand on.
•Since it’s the early worm that gets eaten by the bird, sleep late.
•The second mouse gets the cheese.
•When everything’s coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.
•Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live.
•Some mistakes are too much fun to make only once.
•We could learn a lot from crayons. Some are sharp, some are pretty and some are dull. Some have weird names and all are different colors, but they all have to live in the same box.
•A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.
•Save the earth…it’s the only planet with chocolate!

Quippy, Lippy Purloined One Liners

by Curt Kovener

For many people, they say the wheel was the greatest invention. I disagree. For me, copy and paste is the greatest invention.
Without it, I could not borrow these signboard messages from across the U.S. to share with you.
•Dogs can’t operate MRI scanners…but catscan.
•Mountains aren’t just funny…they’re hill areas.
•Becoming vegan would be a big missed steak.
•Well, to be Frank…I’d have to change my name.
•Forget world peace. Visualize using your turn signal.
•Life is short. If you can’t laugh at yourself, call me. I will.
•Electricians have to strip to make ends meet.
•For chemists, alcohol is not a problem. It’s a solution.
•My mood ring is missing and I don’t know how I feel about that.
•I scream, you scream, the police come…It’s awkward.
•I’m friends with 25 letters of the alphabet. I don’t know Y.
•Cows stumble into a marijuana field. The steaks have never been higher.
•The same cows later returned to the marijuana field. Police said it was a case of the pot calling the cattle back.
•Crushing pop cans is soda depressing.
•We are in search of fresh vegetable puns…lettuce know.
•Here’s a big shout out to my fingers. I can always count on them.
•Irony: the opposite of wrinkly.
•I tried to grab the fog. I mist.
•If you suck at playing a trumpet…that’s probably why.
•When you’re down by the sea, and an eel bites your knee; that’s a Moray.
And the one I find particularly funny:
•Ban shredded cheese…that will truly Make America Grate Again.

A Volunteer Outshines Enigmatic Garden Crops

by Curt Kovener

An enigma is a person or thing that is mysterious, puzzling, or difficult to understand. Thus, like farm crops, our garden this growing season was an enigma.
The usual plant/transplant time was unseasonably cool and wet. In May 8.5” of rain washed out the lane, changed creek banks and toppled trees here in the wilderness.
The tomatoes and peppers we planted after the traditional May 10 frost-free date just languished waiting for the ground temperature to rise. Then when it did, it did so with gusto and the rains stopped. That prompted evening time watering and fertilizing. Despite our nurturing, the vegetables reluctantly bloomed and when they did few fruit set. Even the tomato hornworm avoided our plants this season.
Blossom end rot, splitting fruit, slowly ripening fruit mostly got eaten by the new invasive stinkbug which apparently really likes the new southern Hoosier climate thanks to climate change.
The herbs—chives, rosemary, basil, and dill—all did quite well with the additional nurturing as did the asparagus.
But the Rutgers and Roma tomatoes were a disappointment.
The best tomato producer we had this year was a volunteer Mortgage Lifter. That is an heirloom variety that can be saved for seed and it produces big, pulpy fist-sized fruit year after year. It got its name from a depression era farmer who developed the variety then sold enough of the plants that he paid off or ‘lifted’ the mortgage on his farm.
The volunteer tomato came up in the herb garden, a fenced in 4’x4’ raised bed. It got there from the compost when mixed in with the soil early in the spring. The unknown seed just sat there in the cool, wet spring and germinated late to begin its growth.
Because of the lack of growth from our store-bought plants, we let the Mortgage Lifter grow amongst the herbs. And it quickly surpassed the earlier planted tomatoes.
The Mortgage Lifter lifted our gardening spirits even as the stink bugs developed a taste for the lonely plant’s fruit.
Several quarts of diced tomato are now in our freezer awaiting their call to be a part of the wilderness kitchen magician’s culinary recipes.
With cooler temperatures and frost in the forecast, we pulled all vegetables and put them on the compost pile. But a Mortgage Lifter branch with six tomatoes on it, is hanging from the cabinets in front of the window over the kitchen sink. We’ll see if any ripening will continue. If not, some very late season fried green tomatoes will be on the supper plate.
And rather than rely on compost for next year, I have saved some seeds for window sill planting next February & March. Or maybe we’ll just toss out the seed in the herbs in June and enjoy another late tomato crop.

Grandpa Used To Say…

by Curt Kovener


My Grandpa was a farmer. In the middle of the 20th century Depression, he took a repossessed, run-down, top-soil eroded 160 acres of weeds and spent dirt and with equipment he bought used, a lot of sweat and faith renovated the land and made a living for his family.
No four-wheel drive, air-conditioned cab model tractors; he made the ground produce with a Ford 8-N, 9-N and a Farmall Model H.
He was an old German farmer who lived and learned a lot of life. Here are some observations on farming as well as life for which he could have been responsible.
•Your fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight and bull-strong.
•Keep skunks and bankers and lawyers at a distance.
•Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.
•A bumble bee is considerably faster than a tractor.
•Words that soak into your ears are whispered…not yelled.
•Meanness don’t just happen overnight.
•Forgive your enemies… it messes up their heads.
•Do not corner something that you know is meaner than you.
•It don’t take a very big person to carry a grudge.
•You cannot unsay a cruel word.
•Every path has a few puddles.
•When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.
•The best sermons are lived, not preached.
•Most of the stuff people worry about ain’t never gonna happen anyway.
•Don’t judge folks by their relatives.
•Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
•Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll enjoy it a second time.
•Don’t interfere with something that ain’t botherin’ you none.
•Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.
•If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin’.
•Sometimes you get, sometimes you get got.
•The biggest troublemaker you’ll probably ever have to deal with watches you from the mirror every morning.
•Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
•Sometimes when you think someone isn’t directing their comments are you, they probably are.
•Live simply. Deal fairly. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak Kindly. Leave the rest up to the Almighty.

Number Pul-leeze

by Curt Kovener

(This is an encore column from the Curt Comments archives.)
For some this may be a walk down memory lane, for others it could be considered a local history lesson. For the youngest of our readers this could be a “You’ve got to be kidding” column.
Back before cell phones, back before 411, 911, online whitepages, Google, and the old school plethora of thick multi-county telephone directories; back when a Crothersville phone number wasn’t 793- but SWift 3, the phone book was quite small and covered only one county.
It didn’t need to be big, there was only one phone line per family, that is, if your family had a phone.
In a box of unsold stuff at a recent local auction, I uncovered a 1960 Indiana Telephone Corporation phone book for Jackson County.
This 6-inch by 9 inch local bit of history has about 70 pages of listings and about an equal number of Yellow Pages of business listings and ads. However, the white and yellow pages have faded to about the same hue with the passage of time.
In it, I find dealers for DeSotos, Edsels, Ramblers and Hoosier made Studebakers. (For you youngsters, those were automobile brands.)
Ladies in Crothersville could have their hair properly coiffured at LaBelle Femme Beauty Salon or Style Mode Beauty Shop.
A phone listing for The Peoples Bank cannot be found. In 1960 it was known as the Brownstown Loan & Trust Co. Since 1960, many banks have changed names or merged.
Today’s families might be amused (or aghast) to know that even though there are dozens of pizza alternatives, in 1960 all of Jackson County had just a single pizza place.
It is interesting to see the ads for towing and hauling featuring the pictures of 1950-ish trucks. And gas stations touted their “fast, friendly service” where they came out to your vehicle, pumped your gas, checked your oil and cleaned your windshield and you paid around 39¢ a gallon.
In 1960 there were about a dozen places to have your TV repaired. Today, they are disposable. If it breaks it will cost more to fix it than to buy a new one…if you can find any electronics repair shop.
The residential phone listings were separated by community exchange. Back when this directory was new you could call all of the people in Crothersville you wanted for a local no-charge call. But to call another community would result in a long distance toll charge. Imagine calling someone in Uniontown (on the Seymour exchange) by dialing “0” because it was a long distance call.
Then after dialing “0” and waiting your turn, the operator would ask “Number please?” and after giving the number you wanted to reach you would be asked for your number. (That’s how you got the long distance charge on your phone bill.) Eventually, you got connected to your intended caller unless they were on a party line. More on this in a moment.
And long distant calls were not cheap by today’s standards. According to the phone book in 1960 it cost ‘only’ $1.40 for three minutes to talk to someone in New York City from Crothersville. Most contemporary long distant calling plans have that per minute fee beat. (2019 aside: and who would sit still for any long distance charges today?)
Many Crothersville and rural Jackson County phone customers were on a “party line” which grouped several homes together forcing everyone to share line usage. Woe to the teenager who talked too long. Party lines were also sources of community information…sometimes much of which the two callers preferred not to be aired publicly.
And in 1960 you didn’t carry your phone around in your pocket, purse or belt clip. There were no push buttons, touch screens, portable or stylish phones. There were two models: it set on a desk or it hung on the wall, And they came in one stylish color: black. And you could roam about the house in 1960 as you liked as long as you didn’t exceed the three-foot length of cord connecting the phone to the receiver.