Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

May 1999

May Day

May has been a challenging month for me, always.

As a real little kid, the absolutely incredible dance around the May Pole just knocked me out. Who figured that out, I wondered at the time. How did they decide whether go over under, first? Which was best? What happened to the poles when you were done? And, most important, why did they do it?

As a little older kid, the first Sunday in May was First Communion time. No more dancing around the May Pole; now I was a serious, devout, little soul. As I took to prayers, the ones I best remember were the three Hail Marys at the end of Mass said for the conversion of Russia. Conversion of Russia? What was Russia? For that matter, what was conversion? Why three Hail Marys? Why not four or more or, perhaps, just one?

To give the pagans their due: Their May Day celebrations included the bizarre rite of ridding themselves of freckles. Upon rising you were directed to wash your face in dew and not speak to anyone for the remainder of the day. I never made it past breakfast.

Anyway, about the time I figured out who the Russians were, they took over May Day. They did not dance around the May Pole or say their prayers. They marched and marched and marched and insisted on being called Soviets. Soviets? Geezum! What a world, huh? Come to think of it, can you remember any Soviet leaders with freckles?

Now, I have some news for you .. an extra point, if you will. May is the most different month of the year. And, with real insight, I share, May is different one place to another as well as one month to another.

In Oklahoma, where I grew up dancing around poles and praying for Russians, May is the start of the wheat harvest and we got out of school for vacation so us little child laborers could hit the wheat trail, which terminated in southern Canada during early September. In Vermont and most of New England (although I haven’t done much research into this, as you might imagine) school is on full bore, of course. But here, like everywhere else, May has weather different from any other month and certainly it is different from March and April. Face it: June, July, and August fit together like September, October and November. December through April is like winter but, you know, May’s different.

I’ve never been in a business where May wasn’t freaky. In the ski industry, the whole month is pretty much dead calm: no orders (you’ve booked the early ones and the final push happens in late June); no cash (Thems who haven’t paid yet, sure wont in May!); no shipping pressure; no schedule changes (nothing can happen in May that will help you conclude that your earlier estimates need adjusting). In public accounting, the March and April tax crunches are over; calendar year audits are long ago done; and the next crunch doesn’t start until mid June with pre-audit testing work for June 30 year- end clients. The paper industry was pretty steady from a production standpoint but May’s a pretty good seasonal cost month: not so hot as to need a lot of cooling or so cold as to require extra heat.

May’s the month to launch the boats, clean the clubs, fire up the grills, open the pools, get after those first weeds, repair the roof, paint the trim. May has the first holiday of the year when most people plan to spend a lot of time out-of-doors coatless.

I tell you, May’s just different. And, now that the Russians don’t call themselves Soviets, I guess you can say prayer works, too. Now, if I could just get to the bottom of this May Pole business.