Shivers with Wolves
7 April 2002
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Hi all

One of the exciting attractions of Lafayette is the Wolf Park, a wildlife reserve just out of town which is home to wolves, foxes, bison, and a lone coyote. Every Saturday night of the year (weather permitting) the Park is open for its wolf howl night. During the warmer months they are open more often and have more events, but somehow howling had a particular appeal to me. We found out about the park when we first arrived, and decided it would be an interesting place to take Nick when he visited us at Christmas time, so put off immediate plans to visit.

As it turned out, Nick arrived here one Saturday night (too late to howl) and had flown off again before the next Saturday, so we didn't get to do it then. As it was still on my list of "things to do before we head on out of here", I decided last night would be a good opportunity for a howl.

We invited Sue and Kent to come along with us, but they were decidedly unkeen, which we should have taken as a subtle hint. They don't say "When in Rome do as the Romans do" for nothing. If these Romans had decided April evenings were better spent indoors snuggled up by the heater, then who were we to think we knew better. Suffice to say, we very nearly froze to death! By the time we were given the opportunity to howl, I think we were both moaning in pain and wondering if we would ever be able to move all parts of our body again. Poor Peter had been feeling poorly anyway and this exposure to the evening air did nothing to make him feel better. In fact he started shivering rather violently and continued to do so even when we got home. Luckily some hot soup and hot tea thawed him out and this morning he awoke looking much healthier.

Despite the cold however, the evening was very interesting and I'm sure it would be lots of fun to do on a summer's night. We started by visiting the fox enclosure where the handler told us about the habits and needs of red foxes, which we learned can come in all colours. They are distinguished as red foxes by the white tips on their tails. Who'd have thought? Anyway I was too cold to argue, so we moved across to the wolf enclosure where half a dozen of these truly majestic animals were lounging happily waiting for us to come and howl with them. Sitting on the cold metal bleachers with my muscles cramping from having them huddled against the cold, we learned that there are three kinds of howls: chorus howls, duets, and solo howls. Duets can be simultaneous or antiphonal, solos can be long and continuous or take a shorter form. They believe the short form is a lonely hearts type plea.

As I said, it really was quite interesting and as the handler told us lots about the wolves and explained the difference between tame (which these hand reared animals are) and domesticated, we sat riveted, not necessarily in rapt attention, just from the cold. Even at the time, I had to admit though that there is something strangely pathetic about a group of about fifty adults and children sitting in the cold and dark of the evening howling at wolves (and having them howl back), but there we were! At last the show was over and we returned hastily to our car.

It was a beautiful clear night and as I scurried to the car I looked up instinctively looking for the Southern Cross. Immediately I checked myself and enjoyed the northern sky, but feeling a sense of loss. I realised it was more than 8 1/2 months since I had seen the Southern Cross.

That started me thinking of other things I have not seen or done in that time. I haven't:
hugged our grandchildren, parents, or daughters
worked in the garden
mowed the lawn
hung clothes out to dry
sat in a recliner chair
driven on the left hand side of the road
marked papers
taught classes
received a pay cheque
bought anything just to get Fly Buy points
eaten jelly babies
listened to Cliff Richard sing
watched The Bill
seen a wallaby
seen a feral cat

Now that I've started this maudlin train of thought, I'm sure I'll be able to extend this list. I must say, though that there are some of those things that I don't miss at all! Of course, for the past 51 years I had never howled with wolves before, so life has to be seen as interesting and OK!

Speaking of OK, no one was able to come up with any more research on the origins of that phrase, so Marie-Francoise, you will have to accept my answer as the definitive one at this stage. A search of the internet resulted in the following:

"The etymology of OK was masterfully explained by the distinguished Columbia University professor Allen Walker Read in a series of articles in the journal American Speech in 1963 and 1964.
The letters stand for "oll korrect." They're the result of a fad for comical abbreviations that flourished in the late 1830s and 1840s.
Read buttressed his arguments with hundreds of citations from newspapers and other documents of the period. As far as I know his work has never been successfully challenged.
The abbreviation fad began in Boston in the summer of 1838 and spread to New York and New Orleans in 1839. The Boston newspapers began referring satirically to the local swells as OFM, "our first men," and used expressions like NG, "no go," GT, "gone to Texas," and SP, "small potatoes."
Many of the abbreviated expressions were exaggerated misspellings, a stock in trade of the humorists of the day. One predecessor of OK was OW, "oll wright," and there was also KY, "know yuse," KG, "know go," and NS, "nuff said."
Most of these acronyms enjoyed only a brief popularity. But OK was an exception, no doubt because it came in so handy. It first found its way into print in Boston in March of 1839 and soon became widespread among the hipper element.
It didn't really enter the language at large, however, until 1840. That's when Democratic supporters of Martin Van Buren adopted it as the name of their political club, giving OK a double meaning. ("Old Kinderhook" was a native of Kinderhook, New York.)
OK became the warcry of Tammany hooligans in New York while beating up their opponents. It was mentioned in newspaper stories around the country.
Van Buren's opponents tried to turn the phrase against him, saying that it had originated with Van Buren's allegedly illiterate predecessor, Andrew Jackson, a story that has survived to this day. They also devoted considerable energy to coming up with unflattering interpretations, e.g., "Out of Kash, Out of Kredit, and Out of Klothes."
Newspaper editors and publicists around the country delighted in coming up with even sillier interpretations-- Oll Killed, Orfully Konfused, Often Kontradicts, etc.--so that by the time the campaign was over the expression had taken firm root nationwide."--CECIL ADAMS

In response to mum's questions, Robert sent me a photo of the very fierce looking moloch which is the thorny devil, and a cock-eyed bob is not my brother-in-law after a night on the turps, but is in fact a willy-willy, small tornado, or dust storm.

Stephen picked up on my use of the word Hoosier in my last email and has suggested I ask if anyone knows how that term came about. So there you are: How did the term Hoosier come to be associated with Indiana-ites?

Best wishes to all.

Keep warm
Majella

Last updated: April 7, 2002
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