It was a dark and stormy day—

And the state senate was plodding through its long list of not-particularly significant bills, nearing the time as the legislative session starts measuring its life in days when neither legislative chamber is quite ready to start serious work on bills passed at the other end of the capitol.  Deep, dark clouds inched across the sky from the west, erasing a narrowing band of light to the east.  Every now and then those of us working in the deep interior of the great stone building could hear the rumble of thunder and brief trips outside the Senate chamber to visit a window showed gloom and storms.   

The Senate chamber is normally a  place of men in dark suits, the room dotted by an occasional bright jacket worn by one of the women senators. The fact that some members think it is really, really special after Easter to wear seersucker suits on Wednesdays only emphasizes the general feeling at times that the Senate appears as a convocation of undertakers, most of whom resist the urge to break out in seersucker.  “I take too much pride in my appearance,” one dark-gray clad Senator said one day last week. .  

But on this dark day outside as well as inside, a single word brought lightness and a spirit of color to the place.   It was a made-up word spoken by one of the dark-clad Senators.  “Quorange,” came from the mouth of Senator Rob Schaaf of St. Joseph, clad in his dark suit, blue shirt, and dark tie.  Even his hair is gray.  

The Senate was debating a bill from Senator Maria Chapelle-Nadal of University City, herself clad in a dark dress, that would make it legal for people to vote in meetings of public bodies if that person was attending by teleconference.  

The important language that Sen. Schaaf decided needed not only some color but also some literary embroidery dealt with quorum requirements for the transaction of public business.  He sought to define the situation in which the body needed one more person for a quorum, a situation he proposed calling a “quorange.” 

As you will hear if you listen to the audio link at the end of this entry, He not only suggested a new word in the world of parliamentary procedure, he proudly proclaims that he had solved the ages-old problem of poets.   To underline the importance of his contribution to the language, Schaaf blessed the Senate with a poem.  If you listen to the audio link you will hear the world premiere of the reading of that poem which is so magnificent that a title is unnecessary. But if you lack the patience to devote nine minutes of your life to this historic event, recorded live and on the scene by the Missourinet recording device, here it is.


Late at night in flick’rin light

A poet sat composing

Shadows dancing and entrancing

Flustered thoughts imposing.


After lines of sublime rhymes

His work was near to ending

But his trouble doubled double

And his heart was rending.


Work was dropped, the poem stopped

His hopes were torn and tattered

A simple word, like “rock” or “bird”

That rhymed was all that mattered.


As he cried, his poem died

The effort lay unfinished

Twas no rhyme in space or time

That left it undiminished


The word that fit, the one he writ

/That made the poem perfect

Stood alone, no rhyme was known

The absence left a defect.


To end sublime, jsut one more line

The end must rhyme with orange

But sad to say there was no way

To make a rhyme with orange.


And to this day the poets say

That poets suffer sadly

When orange works but sadness lurks

In lines thus ending badly


And so I say that now, today,

Their orange pain is ending

Because this bill’s amendment will

A cure to them be sending


For now a word–a glorious word

To make a rhyme with orange

A quorum less one–the job is done

The rhyming word is quorange.


And so my friends, this story ends

Our poets have contentment

I hope you’ll vote for the word I wrote

And support this fine amendment. 


Senator Schaaf made sure his amendment joined all of the other amendments to all of the other bills that are published in the Senate journal, thus giving his word a presence in an official document, there perhaps to be discovered someday by lost wordsmith wandering in the dryness of legislative journals.   The amendment is preserved in the journal but the poetic plea for acceptance will not be there for that wandering wordsmith to discover. The journal of the Senate for April 10, 2013 will not contain the important context that brings life to that contribution to the English language.   More’s the shame.  But we, here, at the Missourinet Blog are taking care to make sure this noble effort is not left unexplained.  The laureate of Quorange will be remembered for as long as this entry survives on the internet.  

Alas, the Senate did not adopt the amendment, which would have given the word a chance to enter the hallowed ground of state statutes.  

Senator Schaaf is a physician in St. Joseph when he is not serving in the Senate.  We suggested after hearing him argue for his word and read his great poem that he not give up his day job.

AUDIO: the ballad of quorange 9:08

Notes from the Front Lines

We’ve decided that this can be an irregular category of observations that aren’t important enough to be windy about, but pique our interest.

Missouri’s new minimum wage went into effect with the start of the new year. It’s a ten cent increase, the smallest increase among the ten states that hiked minimum wages with the beginning of 2013.

When Missourinet news director Bob Priddy drew his first paycheck as a working journalist, he was paid ten cents an hour more than the national minimum wage by editor Harry Stonecipher at the Arcola (Ill.) Record-Herald.  In 2012, that hourly wage would be worth $9.62.  That’s $2.37 more than today’s federal minimum wage.  And it’s $2.27 more than Missouri’s new minimum wage.  That extra ten cents way back then is the equivalent of 77 cents today.

We used one of several inflation calculation websites to get those numbers. Other sites might vary slightly.  We’re sure the numbers we have just played with mean something but finer minds than ours can divine that meaning.  But, boy, what we could have done with $9.62 an hour back then.  We doubt that Harry made that much.

A good friend sent us an internet Christmas card showing a flash mob singing Christmas carols in a Cleveland mall.  We’ve seen videos of flash mobs doing all kinds of musical things and they’re fascinating–although we wonder why the crowds didn’t get suspicious when they saw all these people going around with video cameras ready to shoot something.  But then we had another thought:  Why do they call them “flash mobs” when nobody is wearing trench coats and, uh, flashing?
Got a news release the other day from the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources. Back in the days of our college of education it was just the College of Agriculture.  Just about every time we see “College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources, we think for some strange reason of an old Bob Newhart standup routine in which he takes a trip on the Mrs. Grace L. Ferguson Airline and Storm Door Company.

Somebody mentioned a few days ago that the National Hockey League hadn’t played any games this year. So what?  One person in our newsroom who has noticed the absence of the NHL. Our sports director, Bill Pollack, is a Chicago native who misses his Blackhawks.  A friend thinks she knows three more people who miss it.  One of the folks on the Brownfield Network has indicated he cares.  We suspect a search of the rest of the top floor of the Learfield World Headquarters might find the same number of people as are on a hockey team who feel a void in their lives.  Learfield Sports, downstairs, is inhabited by atypical people, some of whom help broadcast college hockey games. Some of them might miss the NHL.

About a year ago the Harris polling company was doing a survey that reported hockey  ranked 7th among Americans’ favorite sports,  Pro football has roared past baseball as the national past time 36%-13%.  College football ties baseball in the hearts and minds of American fans who care about sports. Auto racing, pro basketball and college basketball all rank ahead of hockey.  Hockey is, however, more than twice as popular as men’s tennis, boxing, horse racing, swimming, and men’s golf. But the top six have 80% of the popularity. People shouldn’t still be playing games on ice in June anyway.

The renewed talk about banning certain kinds of weapons recalls to mind Senator Dick Webster, back in the day when there was talk of banning “Saturday Night Specials,” the cheap handguns that were used in many robberies.  He suggested banning “Sunday morning Specials,” which he said were hammers that caused too many mashed fingers of people who stayed at home to build things instead of going to church.
And speaking of things to be banned;  cell phones.  The St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran an article a few days ago about the problems caused when people took cell phones into courtrooms and started photographing participants in trials and posting the pictures on public media such as Facebook.   Frankly, a good case can be made to ban them everywhere. They disrupt our justice system.  They cause traffic crashes.  They distract students from their school work. They interrupt sermons. They cause people who should not be dashing anywhere to suddenly jump out of their chairs and bolt out the door when their pockets vibrate or their purses start singing. They allow adults to shout insults to each other on streets crowded by innocent bystanders.  They facilitate drug dealing.  They let lobbyists text their wishes/demands to Missouri lawmakers during debates and votes. And worst of all, they encourage insipid conversations after airplanes land. We got along perfectly well without the darned things for most of this country’s history.  And have you noticed that our national debt has increased every time some new capability is added to them?  The first I-Phone was released on June 29, 2007 and look what happened to our economy after that.

Does John Deere make deer harvesters?

Headline on a news release we got yesterday:

Gov. Nixon harvests deer in Pulaski County

With all due respect to our friends at the Missouri Department of Conservation (and in the Nixon communications office), do we have to refer to the hunters who go out and put a bullet in Bambi as “harvesting” deer?

When I was growing up on a small Illinois farm, our neighbors harvested crops–corn, beans, hay. My grandfather harvested wheat in Kansas.  Big machines with big round things on the front –reels– would gobble up the crops, shred the grain out of the stalks, store it in a bin and spew the dusty chaff out the back.  Bailers towed behind tractors would likewise devour the winrowed hay, compact it into 80-pound rectangular bales, and kick them out the back on a chute.  Those of us working on the wagon would reach out with a large, vicious, steel hook and pull each bale onto the wagon where we would scientifically stack it so the cargo would not fall off the wagon on the way to the barn—five high and a tie, most often, as I remember it.

The mental images of “harvesting” deer that stick in the back of my mind when we get statistics from the department each year are too ghastly to describe here. And I don’t even want to think of the results with corn pickers.

Baled Bambi?   Good Lord!

We hope the department doesn’t mind if we refer to the “deer kill” numbers after the end of the firearms season today.

A Deere harvester is a machine.  A deer hunter is a killer.