Al Batt: ‘Don’t venture onto the ice until the lake is solid ice all the way to the bottom’

Published 6:45 am Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Echoes from the Loafers‘ Club Meeting

My father put on long underwear, electric socks, snowmobile suit, stocking cap, earmuffs, mittens, parka and insulated boots this morning.

Wow! That should keep him warm.

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It will, unless he goes outside.

Driving by Bruce’s drive

I have a wonderful neighbor named Bruce. Whenever I pass his driveway, thoughts occur to me, such as: I went around and around. Apparently, I was on a tour of roundabouts. I like roundabouts, traffic circles, rotaries or whatever you call them, but the low sun angle at this time of the year can make driving difficult. I wondered how the driving was in Arizona. Friends had already left for that fine state. They don’t go there for the snow. They try to stay ahead of the snow. Friends and family migrate south for the winter. They don’t do cold. They practice schadenfreude while comfortably entrenched in warmer climes. Schadenfreude is the pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. Snowbirds get it by watching weather reports of blizzards and other winter nastiness occurring back home. The badder the storm, the better. No one is above having that feeling. Who hasn’t been passed by a speeder, some genius in a Prius, only to happily see the driver of that vehicle pulled over by a law officer a few miles down the road? Some folks get a kick out of learning of a vehicle or fish house falling through the ice on a lake. I hope their schadenfreude doesn’t extend to casualties. Greg Gulbrandson of Albert Lea gave me this ice advice: Don’t venture onto the ice until the lake is solid ice all the way to the bottom.

It tied with every other day as the best day of the year

I manned a Salvation Army kettle. I talked to a good number of limping people wearing casts and braces or using canes. Falls had wreaked havoc. Humans of a certain age don’t bounce well.

A hurried young man dropped $20 into the kettle.

I thanked him for his generosity.

He said, “If I have enough money to go into a store, I have enough money to put some of it in that kettle.”

I wished him a merry Christmas. I’ll bet he had one.

In a pickle and out of a pickle

  A friend, Linda Anderson of New Ulm, couldn’t find the Christmas pickle to put on her Christmas tree. The Christmas pickle is a tradition for some. A decoration modeled after a pickle is hidden on a Christmas tree, with the finder receiving either a reward or good luck for the next year. I suggested Linda pay a visit to the local hardware store and ask the good folks there if they had a pickle finder. My helpful suggestion was ignored.

A convenience store miracle that didn’t involve a lottery ticket

Doug Beach of Boston, Georgia, told me that a relative of his went to a convenience store to fill a 5-gallon can with gas. The gasoline dispensary apparatus claimed to have pumped 8 gallons into his 5-gallon receptacle. It was a minor miracle.

Nature notes

Snow fell. I could hear a miniature world applauding. Animals can’t let snow keep them from getting to work. The subnivean zone is the area between the surface of the ground and the bottom of the snowpack. The word subnivean means under the snow. Mice, voles and shrews retreat there for protection from cold temperatures and predators. At a time when food is scarce, it’s available in that humid habitat with grass, leaves, seeds, bark and insects being on the menu. Below the snow, tiny mammals create long tunnel systems. Six inches of snow acts as a sturdy roof over generous living quarters and provides relatively stable temperatures around 32 degrees regardless of the air temperature.

Because of their extraordinarily fast metabolic rate, shrews must feed voraciously. A short-tailed shrew’s saliva is venomous and its bite can subdue or kill larger prey such as mice and voles. Shrews also feed upon beetles, centipedes, earthworms, snails, slugs, spiders, fungi and vegetable matter.

Horned larks are social birds that feed upon seeds, insects and berries on open ground like roadsides and fields with short or little vegetation. A horned lark is roughly the same color and size as a clod of dirt. A clod of dirt sporting a pale yellow face with a black mask, cap, ear tufts (horns) and tail. It’s rusty brown above with white underparts. I hear their high-pitched, thin, tinkling songs, often given in flight. The birds bring a beauty to our blustery winter days.

Meeting adjourned

You can never be kind enough, but please keep trying.