Al Batt: Forget everything else, complain about the weather

Published 7:44 am Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Echoes from the Loafers’ Club Meeting

I wanted to be a lawyer when I grew up.

What kept you from going to law school?

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High school.

Driving by Bruce’s drive

I have a wonderful neighbor named Bruce. Whenever I pass his driveway, thoughts occur to me, such as: I’d driven through Freedom, Oklahoma and saw a lady watering a lawn where the ambient temperature was 29 degrees, turning the grass into green ice. I arrived home in time to enjoy yet another snowstorm. I said, “OK, winter, you win,” but winter wasn’t listening. I encourage people to complain about the weather. It cuts back on the number of complaints about other things. My wife and I lived a few miles north of where we live now when we were first married. It was in the first county north of our current location. We couldn’t take the nasty winters, so we moved one county south. Great jumping Jeeps! The less than elegant potholes are typically deep and running in herds. Spring is when roads become speed bumps. This year the potholes have been filled with snow.

An Oklahoma odyssey

Work had taken me to Woodward, Oklahoma. It has a population of nearly 13,000, making it the largest city in a nine-county area. Wildfires danced not far away, charring 350,000 acres, but I was safely ensconced in a hotel. I have an odd last name and a strange habit of checking the telephone books in each hotel I’m in to see if there are any folks listed who share my name. There was one in Woodward. I didn’t call him. I never call the names I find. I should. There were a number of people with the last name of Batman in nearby Laverne. I almost called one of them. It’d have been fun to talk to Batman.

Speaking of those sharing my name, when I refer to certain female relatives, I say “aunt” more often than “ant.” I do so because I want to make sure people know I’m talking about a relative and not a social insect.

Counting crows

I do Christmas Bird Counts. I see as many birds as possible in one day and submit a report to Audubon. It’s fun. I’ve done many CBCs. One year, I teamed with two college students. They were energetic. The temperature was in double figures below zero. We walked through a park where a wood duck box had been attached to a tree. One of the two fellows thought the box might have contained a screech owl, a good bird for the Count.

“Squirrel,” I said, a voice of experience reckoned by the gnaw marks around the entrance hole.

They were determined to see a small owl. The smaller man climbed onto the shoulders of the taller one, making their combined height about that of the nest box. Just as the hands of the man at the top of the totem pole neared the box, a squirrel jumped out of the hole and bounded off the head of the top individual of the two-man act. This caused the two to tip over in slow motion.

It was mighty cold, so they had some padding in their clothing, but they still hit the frozen ground with a resounding thud.

“Yup, squirrel,” I said.

That’s how young people learn.

Nature notes

The wild turkey release program began in Minnesota with the release of 29 birds from Missouri into Houston County in the early 1970s. The state’s turkey population has grown dramatically since then. Populations are highest in the southeast, but good numbers exist in the central part of the state as well as parts of the northeast. Wild turkeys exist nearly everywhere in Minnesota and the expansion of their range continues throughout the state as wild turkeys rewrite the book on wild turkey habitat requirements and find homes in places that were formerly considered unsuitable. Habitat required for wild turkey survival is generally mature hardwood forests interspersed with cropland and non-agricultural openings, brushy grasslands and river bottoms. Acorns are a favored food, but they eat other nuts, crops, berries, seeds and insects.

Some butterflies spend the winter here adult forms, including some red admirals, question marks, commas, mourning cloaks and tortoiseshells that hibernate in hollow logs and trees, under loose bark or eaves, and in buildings.

Meeting adjourned

“It doesn’t take as long to help as it does to wait for help. Never lose sight of the fact that the most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people – your family, friends, and coworkers, and even strangers you meet along the way.” — Barbara Bush