Al Batt: I’m a big fan of my former teachers

Published 8:45 am Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Echoes from the Loafers’ Club

How’s your diet going?

Good! Do I look like I’ve lost weight?

Email newsletter signup

You do. Especially from a distance.
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: My wife is a better worrier than I am. She gets it from her father. He was a worrier. I noticed that early on in our relationship. He worried every time she went out with me.
Finding food

The season has changed to fall. That’s like telling Wal-Mart that Christmas is coming. We can tell it’s autumn. It looks and smells like fall. Minnesota and Iowa are still being renovated. Roadwork is in a state of frenzy. Yard signs expressing support for candidates pop up everywhere. I figure those signs take as many votes away as they garner. I recycled some phonebooks. It used to be a feat for a strongman to tear a telephone book in half. Now it wouldn’t be a challenge to most second graders. A high school English teacher of mine wrote that she was a big fan of my writing. That meant a lot to me. I’m a big fan of my former teachers.

Church soup and pie suppers proliferate, making it possible for desperate diners to obtain their minimum annual adult requirement of sour cream and raisin pie. I was far from home when someone invited me to a church potluck. Church potlucks give cooks a way to show off without showing off. I accepted immediately and asked what I could bring. I was instructed to bring nothing more than my appetite. Church potlucks are fine feeds. Every cook brings his or her A game. The food was sublime. I couldn’t have prepared any dish half as well in twice the time. When it comes to cooking, the Peter Principle applies — I’ve risen to the level of my own incompetence.

My wife and I attended a smorgasbord at Nora Unitarian Universalist Church in Hanska. It was a nice drive getting there. There was the required roadwork, but a lack of traffic lights. I miss seeing traffic lights for one and only one reason. They give me the opportunity to sing a Monty Python song, “He likes traffic lights. He likes traffic lights. He likes traffic lights, no matter where they’ve been. He likes traffic lights. He likes traffic lights. He likes traffic lights, but only when they’re green.” The smorgasbord offered a varied collection of food that included deviled eggs, herring, tongue, meatballs, ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, glazed carrots, sot supe, rice pudding, rømmegrøt, lefse, flatbrød, rosettes, krumkake, fattigmand, sandbakkels and more.
Tim Hortons and tarantula hawks

I worked in Canada, trying to trade Manitoba for Florida so that our elections would run more smoothly. Tim Hortons was a busy place. Coffee and doughnuts were consumed. Tim Horton was a hockey player, not a prime minister of Canada as your brother-in-law thinks. Some think Tim Hortons is Canada’s Starbucks. There are Tim Hortons in the U.S. Back in Minnesota, I amused myself by standing in a Starbucks and seeing how many other Starbucks I could see from there.

I saw a barbershop. It was an arduous haircut. I had to tell the barber repeatedly that I wanted my ears to remain in place. Another customer had the hiccups. He was told to put the blade of a knife against the back of his neck. Someone else said that was the cure for nosebleeds, not hiccups.

Soon I was leading a birding trip in Arizona and spotted a tarantula hawk. That two-inch long wasp with a blue-black body and rust-colored wings wants to sting tarantulas, not humans. The female uses the big spiders as hosts for her larvae. The Schmidt Sting Pain Index shows that the tarantula hawk has the most painful sting in North America and second in the world to the king of sting, Central and South America’s bullet ant. Schmidt describes the tarantula hawk’s sting as sitting in a tub of water when a plugged-in toaster oven is dropped into it.

I wondered if the cold blade of a knife held to the back of a neck cured wasp stings.
Nature notes

“Where do pelicans spend the winter?” American white pelicans leave in the fall as lakes and rivers freeze. They winter along the Gulf Coast from Florida to Mexico, returning in early spring as lakes and rivers thaw. Pelicans were nearly driven to extinction by human pressures.
Meeting adjourned

“The everyday kindness of the back roads more than makes up for the acts of greed in the headlines.” — Charles Kuralt