Peggy Keener: Random thoughtful thoughts

Published 5:53 pm Friday, November 11, 2022

My mind is adrift as I sit at my laptop. What to confront you with in this column? Zap! Zap! … ideas whirl past my brain. Wait! Here’s one. Hurricanes? Well, why not?

No one will argue with the fact that we grateful Minnesotans are saved from this anguish. But, what really staggers the mind is those silly nilly southern folks who think they’ve got it made because they don’t have snow. Such nonsense! When was the last time a gorgeous diamond-glinting snowfall took the roof off your house? Or, for that matter, flooded your bedroom?

So, okay. Let’s talk down and dirty about hurricanes. Long ago, Native Americans called these destructive storms ‘hurakons’ after ‘the great spirit who commanded the east wind.’ No kidding! That great spirit had some set of pipes!

Later the Spanish explorers adopted the word, but gussied it up by giving the storms names. For example, if a hurricane blew in during a patron saint’s feast day, then that’s what they called it. I suppose we holiday-minded Americans could do that, too. You know, call a storm, ‘Mother’ or ‘Father’ or even ‘Groundhog’ …. if you know what I mean.

It was only seventy years ago that the U.S. developed the formal practice of storm naming. They began with the phonetic alphabet (e.g. Able, Baker, Charlie). Lacking in any degree of originality, the kicker was that every season those weather folks used the same names all over again. Awkward!

It took three more years of intensive brain churning to come up with the idea of NOT REPEATING THE NAMES! Repetition could create confusion, you know. So, what did the good ‘ol Bubbas at the U.S. National Hurricane Center contrive? ‘Well, why not use some radical creativity,’ they buoyantly agreed while patting themselves on their bulky backs. ‘Let’s name the storms after women!’ Nice.

Actually, they didn’t get all the credit for this wildly innovative idea. It was a weatherman in Australia who first gave a tropical storm a female’s name. Right on ye, Mate! It, albeit, didn’t take much thinking to connect this marvel of ingenuity to the mariners of old who named the winds after their wives and girlfriends, much like the way sailing ships were named after women.

But, about 1979, women began raising their tempers in protest. ‘Why paint us in such a bad light,’ they remonstrated? ‘Why shouldn’t men share in the hurricane blame?’ Thus, in a major upheaval, the system was revised to include both male and female names. Deep. So very deep.

Alarmingly, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was the most active season on record. (I’m guessing that 2022 has them beat, though.) It was so intense that the folks at the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), ran out of names.

Now this confounds me. How could such a thing happen when there were perfectly good monikers all over the place just waiting to be chosen? Like what’s so off putting about Rastus, Grizelda or Rumplestiltskin? Shadrach, Meshach or Abednego? Click and Clack, the Car Talk guys? Somebody should, with all haste, send the WMO a book of baby names for expectant parents. That wouldn’t be hard.

Now, here’s a scenario that will curl your toes. What if they run out of names? Yiiiikes! Here’s how the minds of the World Meteorological Organization figure they will confront this possible calamity. Your rapt attention, please.

If more storms occur in one season than there are names on their list, the newest storms will be given Greek names … Alpha, Beta, Gamma, etc. But, wait! This won’t work either. They’d run out.

Finally, finally, in 2021 the earth shook when the WMO came up with yet another stunning flash of genius. Instead of the Greek alphabet, they drew up a list of supplemental …. as in extra! …. names. This plan was so futuristic they deemed that even these additional names could be retired or replaced if the storms were judged to be so significantly impactful that they required names. Well, duh! Let’s see. Guess that would be something like Big Rastus, Bigger Grizelda and Really, Really Big Rumplestiltskin … or simply Fatso.

How gratifying it is that I can sit back knowing I have laid your minds at ease; knowing that America can rest comfortably because the WMO is in charge.

So, with that in mind, I can now move on. Thus, my thoughts drift further afar. Hmmm…. history. Sure. Let’s talk about world history.

Here I warn you that this could get scary. Really hairy scary. Did you know that historically many of the great empires rose and then perished within 250 years? Yes, the Persians, the Trojans, the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans and even the British (especially right now the British!!!) fell. But, what is really hair raising is that they were not conquered by external enemies. They rotted from within.

The founder of Dubai, Sheikh Rashid, was once asked about the future of his country. Here was his reply. ‘My grandfather rode a camel. I ride a Mercedes. My son and his son will ride Land Rovers. But …. my great grandson is going to have to ride a camel again.’

Why the dire predictions, he was asked? ‘Because hard times create strong men,’ he answered. ‘Strong men create easy times. Easy times create weak men. Weak men create difficult times. Unfortunately, most people will not understand this. But, it is necessary that we raise warriors, not parasites.’


What we Americans must not fail to overlook is the strong ordinary men and women who put their lives on the line working with unremitting toil to shape the glorious document that would corral and guide our remarkable democratic republic.

Times are now perilous. America may well be teetering near that 250 year mark. So, if we see rot beginning to seep in what do we do? How about hitching up our belts, pulling our best thinking caps on tight, rounding up the camels and sending them packing? We can all in our own small way do this. Why? Because, like our forefathers, we are also strong, resolute, wise and conscientious citizens of this unparalleled country we know as our America. And together we can continue to recreate the wonder of us … a wonder like the world has never seen.

Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers!