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Baby Black Bear by Chuck Wiser

Wiser’s Wramblings-To Chaff or to Cast Chaff


Grammar groans, chaffing, and grit

By Chuck Wiser, I write the words to share what my eyes see and my heart feels

As I began writing this, I looked at my typical “topics list” which until last night included only three topics. Sorry, but, if you cast a sigh of relief thinking I would write short and sweet you were the subject of aspersions I cast upon you as the military would cast chaff from a plane to deflect radar.

Starting with today’s Grammar Groan; the word chaff came into my head as a few small topics, nonmajor, came to mind. The topics all seemed like bits and pieces cast into the wind to deflect from the idea that I didn’t really have anything significant to write about. As, or if, you read on, you may agree. My mother used to use the term “try to separate the wheat from the chaff” when imploring me to speak plainly or make my point. The multiple definitions of the word “chaff” all more or less follow the theme of it being non-essential parts of a seed, as in the husk, or small bits of reflective tin foil cast from a military plane to deflect the radar from the main object. Maybe more simply said, it means to separate the significant from the meaningless. “Chafing at the bit,” as it turns out, has no correlation to chaffing. Chafing in the first context can mean “anxious or excited anticipation,” or rubbing as in abrading skin to make it raw.

 Chaffing can mean spreading or casting chaff; irritating, or becoming irritated or annoyed.

Then again you can cook or keep casseroles warm in a chafing dish at your next hosted banquet.

This next bit may be more meaningful to those of my generation than to anyone born in the 70’s and beyond. As I drove to Harrisburg, PA the other day, going through Williamsport jogged a memory of a Newspaper, popular in the 1900’s. Upon historical research, I believe it is now only available as a magazine. The GRIT was a newspaper published in Williamsport, PA, which after a few early year’s sputters, developed into a widely popular “family newspaper” distributed by weekly mailing or delivered door to door by enterprising young individuals who earned a few cents per copy for their delivery efforts. My childhood (and still) friend John Clark (Johnny Pete as his mother called him) was the local Grit delivery boy around Nile, NY. I would sometimes accompany him on his weekly round, delivering the newspaper. By 1932, GRIT had a 48-state circulation of 425000, 83% of which were in towns with populations less than 10000. I guess Nile, NY fit into that category with its population of 125 souls in its “heyday.” More “oldies” grammar; Heyday (not hay day nor hey day) means “a peak of success for  person, group, or idea.”

I’m not sure if there is a correlation between the newspaper name GRIT and the word “grit,” especially as used in the movie title True Grit, but I can sense a slight weaving of the thoughts.

Since I opened the grammar door I might as well share a recent event summary. I called in for a contact lens refill prescription over the weekend. When I stopped by Allegany Eye Associates in Olean to pick up the lenses, I told the counter lady I was there to “pick up my script.” She looked around in a file cabinet then asked me “when was it written?” Thinking quickly, it dawned on me that she was looking for the “written script” thinking that was what I wanted, instead of the “prescription” which had been filled. I meant one thing using the term “script” she took my terminology to mean something else related but different. I don’t blame her. Script means script.

One last groan of grammar and I will spread my chaffing to another topic. I have always prided myself on my spelling ability and still rely on the belief that “it has to sound right to be right.” The teacher’s directive to “Sound it out” still rings in my ears. Lately with my aging memory and dead brain cells, it is getting more difficult to rely on that as the final proof. I had occasion to write about the town of Chautauqua recently and knew from the warning “red letters” that it wasn’t spelt right. Several iterations didn’t get me any closer to what I thought was the correct spelling. The third “U” threw me off. After all, I guess only its native root language translation could result in a word that had three repeats of the “a-u” vowel combination. At least the spelling of Mississippi had both a sing song effect and a catchy phrase to help you remember the double consonant translation of “MI crooked letter, I, crooked letter, I, Humpback, Humpback – I” to remember it by. I wonder if they still use the old phrases like “I before E except after C…” to help memorize or at least recognize proper spelling. Nearing my 80th decade I still remember those phrases, and yet can’t remember why I went into the next room to get, or do, something.

Driving through Friendship, mid afternoon yesterday reminded me of watching westerns where the view down the barren empty street was of a ghost town. Upon cresting the west end knoll on West Main Street approaching Wellman Field you could sight down the entire length of the street and east all the way to the corner by the Hatch House and there was not a single vehicle nor person in sight. That brought a moment of sadness, prolonged only by gazing at the deteriorating store fronts of vacancies, as I continued to the intersection by the Post Office where Rte 31 starts.

Back to the “memory issue,” after making that turn around the corner, I jotted a note to myself to remember the topic but only wrote the word “Ghost.” After arriving home and picking up my notepad, I couldn’t remember what my note meant. It took me a good 10 minutes of going through different thoughts, topics, and word strings including the word Ghost before giving up and putting that thought out of my mind. 5 minutes after stopping my recall attempts, the term “ghost town” popped into my head. I have come to learn that is the best method of recollection. Every time I go past the Island Park in Friendship heading toward Olean, I test my memory recall by trying to remember the name of my first newspaper editor. Sometimes Marilyn Lester’s name pops right in, and sometimes, like now, I must work at the recall. It often helps by saying her husband’s name as it has a more “melodic” sound to it and tweaks my memory brain cells.

For quite some time now I have noticed a frequent preponderance of Olean Times Herald (OTH) football season write-ups covering a Pennsylvania team rivalling the “only” New York football team that I, and many likeminded areas sports fans favor. I guess it might be expected from time to time for a couple of reasons. First, OTH is owned (or run) by The Bradford Publishing Company. Secondly, to the benefit of the Wellsville Sun, the OTH heart and soul of Bills reporting and writing, Chuck Pollock, now writes for the Sun. Their loss, our gain.

That topic was brought “to the fore” by my reading yesterday’s OTH paper this morning. One measure of a topic’s coverage is to refer to the number of “column inches” that the story was granted. Wednesday’s OTH featured the Bills with about “13 column inches” in its article. The Pittsburgh Steelers (an obvious Pennsylvania team) received a generous 75 inches spread over two stories. Ok! Rant over.

Wrambling’s Aviary Update/Status: Despite a couple of week-old prediction that the Orioles had left, the recent proliferation of feeder visits mentioned last week, continues and we continue to be blessed. There are three energetic and hungry young (I guess) males that may have fledged in this year’s pre-migration hatch, and about six or so females with a mix of yellow-ish to near orang-ish coloring. They land or hover almost “flock like” in spells. Every visit, I applaud our foresight to have installed tree branches attached to the deck rails, as resting or landing spots for them. All our Aviary friends seem to have had a “bountiful crop” this year. The Grosbeaks have multiplied in number significantly, as have the Cardinals. As of this writing it looks like most of the Grosbeak population may have started their migration. I may have to offer a retraction of that thought next week as I have had to with the Orioles two weeks running, but that would be welcomed.

I have been swamped with recent email, Facebook (FB), and even snail mail scams and spam lately, and was going to include it as a topic this week. After seeing multiple friends “sharing” some of these FB scams I have decided that I will postpone that topic and expand on it as a main topic in next week’s Wrambling’s. I will leave you then with a seasonally appropriate poem. Since I mentioned Marilyn Lester my first writing “editor” I guess this poem published in a 1962 Friendship Volunteer is appropriate.

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