Al Batt: Stories from the Batt Cave

Published 10:25 am Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Echoes from the Loafers’ Club Meeting

Did you play football in high school?

No, I couldn’t play because of my religious beliefs.


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I don’t believe in concussions.

Driving by the Bruces

I have two wonderful neighbors — both named Bruce — who live across the road from each other. Whenever I pass their driveways, thoughts occur to me, such as: Say what you want about potholes, at least they are still made in this country. A friend named Dick Borge had stopped by the Batt Cave. Dick and I swapped stories of growing up in the same locale. Dick said that we were lucky to have come of age where we did. There was the day when I went over to the neighbors to play with their new electric fence and then listened to music while staring at an album cover. Clester Erickson was the town constable. He was a good guy who drove a station wagon. A station wagon. There were so many people that I looked up to while I was growing up. I visit cemeteries often to let them know that I haven’t forgotten them. If the goal was to die at 100 years of age while taking a nap, they were unable to achieve that. The late Guy Clark wrote the song, “Homegrown Tomatoes.” He sang, “Only two things that money can’t buy, and that’s true love and homegrown tomatoes.” Guy Clark must not have frequented farmers’ markets in search of homegrown tomatoes, but I’m lucky to have found true love in marriage and in sense of place.

Spiro Agnew

Lewis Carroll, in “Through the Looking Glass,” wrote, “Beware the Jabberwock, my son. The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun the frumious Bandersnatch!”

It’s hard to argue with that.

It makes as much sense as much of the political rhetoric that bombards us on a daily basis. Some of you might remember this, “In the United States today, we have more than our share of the nattering nabobs of negativism. They have formed their own 4-H Club — the hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history.”

This was uttered by Vice President Spiro Agnew at the California Republican state convention in 1970 and referred to members of the media with whom he’d had an acrimonious relationship. White House speechwriter William Safire wrote it. Safire became a political columnist and wrote a column that I loved reading called “On Language” in “The New York Times Magazine.” Agnew ran alongside Nixon in the presidential election of 1968 when they beat Hubert Humphrey and Edmund Muskie. In 1972, Nixon and Agnew were reelected, defeating George McGovern and Sargent Shriver. In 1973, Agnew was investigated on charges of extortion, tax fraud, bribery and conspiracy. He was charged with accepting bribes while governor of Maryland and vice president. Agnew was allowed to plead no contest and resigned. Nixon replaced Agnew with Gerald Ford, who later replaced Nixon as president. Agnew was the second vice president in U.S. history to resign, the other being John C. Calhoun.

Let’s hope that we continue to be nattering nabobs of kindness.

Those thrilling days of yesteryear

It was an old high school annual. A yearbook filled with fake smiles because it’s difficult to fake a sincere smile. If only we had known what would happen to our plans, the fake smiles would have been replaced with laughing and crying.

Seeing green faces with ripened names brings memories. Mr. Norswing was our school superintendent. A fine man who tended toward frugality. I remember the day when the school’s lunch, normally a delectable hotdish, was a little dry. That was the same day that the school’s butterfly collection had disappeared. Probably coincidental.

I remember a day when a friend brought his new BB gun to the farm. It was a high-powered job. We went to the granary to shoot rats. Or shoot at rats. The rats, not wanting to be shot, ran by as he fired his weapon at them. One rat ran over his foot. He fired his gun at the rodent. Bullseye! He’d shot himself in the foot. He dropped his new BB gun. A shot to the foot is a great choreographer. He hopped, skipped, swayed and whirled out the granary door.

My cousin saw the performance and asked, “New dance?”

“Nope,” I replied, “bad aim.”

Nature notes

I watched a rabbit eating a young milkweed in the garden. A rabbit makes a clean, sharp, angled cut on leaves and stems. A deer tears at its food, leaving ragged edges.

Meeting adjourned

Think of three things that you’re grateful for. Then be kind because of them.