Al Batt: It could be worse

Published 6:31 am Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Echoes from the Loafers’ Club Meeting

It was a life-changing experience that will haunt me for the rest of my years.

You had a paper cut.

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It was a nasty one.

Driving by Bruce’s drive

I have a wonderful neighbor named Bruce. Whenever I pass his driveway, thoughts occur to me, such as: The weather had been like Charlie Brown’s football. I couldn’t kick about it. Then it turned. A friend called, saying he’d been out and about on the stormy day. I asked him how driving conditions were as I needed to travel. “Not too bad,” he said.

Emboldened by his road report, I hit the road with a highway herd mentality. I’d promises to keep. I didn’t worry about cold rage. It was too darn cold. The weather wasn’t not too bad. It was too bad. The road was icy and someone had whistled up a wind. Nothing was staying where the wind had put it. The rule is, under such circumstances, a driver should follow other vehicles at a safe distance of 15 miles.

After my appointment, I bought some groceries. I pushed a shopping cart unequipped with snow tires and nearly became stuck in snow. As I walked past a giant SUV, my cellphone rang. I expected a work call, so I took it. I paused directly behind the SUV. I could see there was no one in it and the bulky vehicle blocked some of the wind. Just as I’d greeted the caller, the SUV’s engine fired up. A remote car starter gave me quite a start.

It could be worse

I led a bus trip where at one stop, we were privileged to enjoy -33-degree weather. I’d given everyone that most useful of aphorisms: There is no bad weather, just bad clothing. The best thing about walking around in a temperature of -33 is that it’s not -34. The temperature warmed a couple of degrees. I found pleasure in saying, “It’s up to minus 31 degrees.”

A Floridian in the group did a spit take with her coffee.

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Nature notes

A neighbor said it was a good day to stay inside out of. It was blustery, but the trees of the yard did what they could to offer protection from the wind.

There was a hint of skunk smell in the air. Pepe Le Pew said, “When you are a skunk, you learn how to hold your breath for a long time.” Skunks aren’t true hibernators. They go into torpor. Their varied diet makes it easier for them to find food in winter when needed. Thanks to at least one being out and about, my nose experienced a fetid odor.

The feeders were visited by a scurry of squirrels. Fox squirrels are large squirrels. Red squirrels are not. Fox squirrels are feisty, but their spunkiness puts them in the amateur ranks when compared to red squirrels. There was an encounter under a feeder. It wasn’t so much a battle as it was a chase. One squirrel chased the other into a squirrel cave in the snow. The bigger animal won, but not without protest. It wasn’t long before the vanquished, the red squirrel, emerged from its snowy hole, twitched its tail and scolded the victor.

I saw raccoon tracks in the snow. A buddy calls them trash pandas. The word “raccoon” was adopted into English from the native Powhatan term used in the Virginia Colony. It was recorded on Captain John Smith’s list of Powhatan words as aroughcun and on William Strachey’s similar list as arathkone. Either way, it meant “one who rubs, scrubs and scratches with its hands.” The adaptability of raccoons has allowed them to thrive in urban areas.

The wind acceded to my wishes. It stopped suddenly and completely. It was cold, still and quiet as I replenished the suet in a feeder, I heard an odd whooshing sound overhead. It whooshed this way and that way. I turned this way and twisted that way in order to see the cause. It was a whirling flock of birds. A graceful movement of starlings called a murmuration. Magic in the air.

Meeting adjourned

Dave Clausen of Amery, Wisconsin, sent this version of the Ten Commandments he’d spotted in Mexico. “Be happy. Count your blessings. Use kind words. Share. Always take turns. Don’t scream. Be content. Be honest. Say your prayers. Forgive each other.”