Al Batt: Spring in Minnesota comes with chilly hang-ups

Published 7:43 am Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Echoes from the Loafers’ Club Meeting

I bought a house next to the railroad tracks.

Aren’t you worried about the noise?

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The real estate guy said I wouldn’t notice the trains after a couple of nights. So, I stayed in a hotel the first few nights I owned the house.

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 gone a few days without thinking about oil. That meant it was time to change the oil in my car. I was drove outside Wadena, Minnesota, on May 19. It was 38 degrees and the rain poured down. I saw a sign at a business that read, “Are U ready for spring?” I was.

I came out of a hotel on a nice day in St. Cloud. A man was outside having a cigarette. A slave to nicotine. “Beautiful day,” I said.

“It’s a perfect day for smoking,” he said.

I spoke in Great Bend, Kansas. I talked to a man from New Mexico there, who told me that his visit to Kansas made it the 50th state he had visited. He’d run the table. “Do you know how hard it is to travel to 49 states and not visit Kansas?” he asked.

I didn’t know.

Their next show-and-tell will be a class reunion

My wife and I are fortunate to be invited to a number of graduation parties for young people who will continue to edit their lives. I want to make a toast to every graduate — either peanut butter and honey or cinnamon and sugar — but that’s impossible. Soon these grads will be off doing great things like giving dramatic readings of an owner’s manual for a 2015 Subaru or finding a cure for the cellphone itch. Changing the world.

Do I have any advice for a new graduate? Who doesn’t? Read “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott. If you don’t know how to whistle, learn how. Learn to change a tire. Ask an older relative what one day they would choose to live over again. Then listen to the answer.

Nature notes

I had the blues. I was happy to have them. There were six male indigo buntings at the feeders. It made me want to hug a cardinal. There were female buntings, too, lovely brown birds some might call LBJs–Little Brown Jobs.

The morning’s birdsong was a flawless symphony. An egret flew over. As egrets go, it was a great one. Bobolinks sang a song that has been described as “a tinkle of fairy music, like the strains of an old Greek harp.” Bobolinks wear black tuxedos with the wrong side at the front. Most birds with contrasting plumages are light underneath and dark on top. Not bobolinks.

The horned lark, the only native lark in North America, begins nesting early in spring and the tinkling songs of the males come from high overhead. The “horns” of the horned lark are feather tufts. A great crested flycatcher covered in feathers of earth tones pursued flying insects in the yard. I spotted turkey vultures in a dead tree. That seemed appropriate.

A squirrel ran past. They can run up to 20 mph. They work up a

sweat that way, as they have sweat glands in their feet. Jeff Bahls of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, told me that he’d spotted a barred owl eating night crawlers on a road.

A red fox trotted through our yard. I was happy to see it. A study by an ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies found that where Lyme disease is found, it occurred most often where fox numbers were the lowest because red foxes are effective predators of mice, major carriers of Lyme disease.

The day’s red-winged blackbird’s opponent was a bald eagle. The

blackbird was fighting out of its weight class, but it hectored the eagle enough that it landed in a farm field. The feistiness of a redwing is impressive.

I heard “kek-kek-kek” coming from on high. It was the call of a

Cooper’s hawk, the chicken hawk of my boyhood days. I hear that sound often when I’m near the raptor’s nest. An impressive aerial skirmish took place. A crow and the hawk fussed with one another. Then a second crow came in like the cavalry to put the hawk on the run. They forced the Cooper’s to land in a tree. The crows turned to fly away and the hawk came shooting out of the tree at breakneck speed and chased both the corvids out of the neighborhood.

Meeting adjourned

Today, write that kind note you’ve been meaning to write and send it.