Al Batt: Becoming shorter to please mother-in-law

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Echoes from the Loafer’s Club Meeting

I hate Mondays.

This isn’t Monday.

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I hate days that pretend to be Mondays.

Driving by

Bruce’s drive

I have a wonderful neighbor named Bruce. Whenever I pass his driveway, thoughts occur to me, such as: A school board member in small-town Nebraska told me it had three graduates this year — the valedictorian, the salutatorian and the other one. The struggles of small schools to maintain sufficient enrollments makes me wistful.

I attended a granddaughter’s New Ulm High School graduation. She was one of two of the class of 158 (including nine sets of twins) to speak. It seemed only yesterday that I held her as a newborn.

The commencement speaker talked about the things you could count on in New Ulm. One was Joey Batt shooting hoops at Vogel Arena. She shot 500 3-pointers one day. Now she’ll be shooting hoops for Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Graduation, das war wundervoll. That might be German for “that was wonderful.”

I attended a funeral for my wife’s cousin Diane Wendland. I love hearing bagpipes at funerals, as long as I’m not too close to them. That not only knocks the wax out of my ears, it curls my eyebrows. I encountered a friend and former teammate, Neil Berg. Neil asked if I was getting shorter or if it was the loss of hair that made me look diminished. I laughed until a second fellow mentioned I looked shorter. I told him that I’d been down to 5 feet 9 inches tall, but I’d be back to 6 feet 4 inches in a couple of days. My weight stays the same, but my height bounces around.

Diane had asked her niece, Collette Berg (Neil’s wife), to give the eulogy. “You don’t have to write it, just read it,” directed Diane. She’d written her own eulogy.

The funeral was a time to remember and to be thankful. I’m thankful for many things. Most of all that I’m married to Diane’s cousin. I’m a long drink of water. My wife isn’t. On our first date, my future mother-in-law looked at us and said we didn’t match. I’m becoming shorter just to please her.

Nature notes

I heard a western meadowlark sing. It’s a voice of my generation. An owl had called in the darkness, part of the job description of a night owl.

I spent a day walking trails at a fish hatchery located near Bayfield, Wisconsin. Winter wrens called frequently. Winter wrens, like house wrens, are little birds with big voices. A wren is 90 percent song. Most of the singing is done by males hoping to attract a hen wren. His song is more powerful than that of a crowing rooster. Yellow warblers, common yellowthroats and ovenbirds sang continually. Mnemonics of the songs of those birds are as follows: Yellow warbler “Sweet sweet sweet, I’m so sweet,” common yellowthroat “Follow me, follow me,” and ovenbird “Nature, nature, nature.” A mourning dove calls, “Hula, hoop, hoop, hoop”. What would a mnemonic be for the winter wren’s rich, bubbling, cascading song? I don’t know. I find its song too complicated and busy to welcome one. I saw scarlet tanagers, lovely black-winged redbirds. I was so taken with the handsome tanagers that I nearly stepped on a nesting Canada goose.

My father called the yellow warbler a summer warbler. I saw a Blackburnian warbler with its striking black-and-orange pattern. A Halloween bird.

I walked a wooded wetland near Ashland, Wisconsin. My eyes were treated to the loveliness of the marsh marigolds and my nose detected the putrid odor of skunk cabbage. Skunk cabbage plants are beautiful and produce enough heat to melt snow. It gets its name from its pungent, skunk-like smell. To me, the stench is more like a rotting carcass. This smell attracts flies and other insects for pollination.

Each year, I mosey along the winding paths of Munsinger Gardens and stroll the brick walkways of Clemens Gardens in St. Cloud. These beautiful gardens along the Mississippi River offer hardy perennials, over 1,000 roses, 100,000 annual plants and a garden inspired by the world-renowned White Garden at Sissinghurst Castle in Kent, England.

I opened the door to our house and a June bug, also called a May beetle, flew in. It bounced off a lampshade and fell to the floor. landing on its back, like a tipped-over turtle, pawing the air with its legs. I released it outside.

Meeting adjourned

I remembered on Memorial Day. Two of my cousins died in battle. I carried a woman’s flower receptacle to her son’s grave. I hoped a smile might soften her sadness slightly.