Al Batt: Take time to be amazed

Published 6:37 am Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Echoes from the Loafers’ Club Meeting

What is the state sport?


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Ha! Don’t make me laugh. It’s not basketball, baseball, softball, football or roller derby either.

Then what is it?

Complaining about the weather.

Driving by Bruce’s drive

  I have a wonderful neighbor named Bruce. Whenever I pass his drive, thoughts occur to me, such as: The tomatoes were flourishing, so my wife and I could leave home. We headed to Austin with great enthusiasm and anticipation. We stopped at SuperFresh, owned by a friend named Jim Stiles, to buy Missouri peaches. I love juicy peaches — the kind that each bite causes so much juice to run down my chin that I should wear a rain coat while eating one. We went to the Hormel Nature Center for a good walk. There was an explosion of flowers and seeing all the accompanying insects was exciting. I’ve never had a bad walk at that remarkable place. From there, we visited the SPAM Museum. I like SPAM and I enjoy the history presented at the Museum. It’s well done. We ventured into the gift shop as I believe SPAM socks make the perfect gifts because they aren’t something that people typically buy for themselves. The combination of walking and looking created appetites. I was coyote hungry. We headed to a favorite eatery, Kenny’s Oak Grill. I had the special. I tend to order specials, but not always. I want my wife to see me as a man of mystery and intrigue. The food was powerful good and we encountered friends there.

A fellow greeted me and then added, “I’ll bet you don’t know who I am, do you?”

Hearing something like that causes my brain to shut down. I orbited his name and made a guess, which I should never do. I was way wrong.

The man was Rodney Johnson, a good guy who I was happy to see again.

Once he’d identified himself, I said, “You’ve gotten bigger.”

That’s dumb guy talk for, “You’ve gotten older.”

Nature notes

The morning was as quiet as a sack of whispers. Each day, no matter where I am, I’m overwhelmed with joy at the opportunity to see and hear. An hour unmoored, which allowed for a walk, brought natural surprises and delight in discovery. I was taught to search for these things by a family that said repeatedly, “You never know.”

Take time to be amazed. The new becomes familiar. Look longer and the familiar becomes new.

Martha Kofstad of New Richland spotted a moth hovering like a hummingbird around flowers. The white-lined sphinx moth, sometimes called a hummingbird moth, is 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches long and is active from July to September.

I talked to a fairgoer who had seen a luna moth. This green moth with a 4-inch wingspan flies in May and June. It spends its days hanging beneath the leaves it resembles.

I saw a giant ichneumon wasp. The wasp was about 7 inches long. The body made up about 2 inches and the ovipositor 5 inches. The ovipositor isn’t a stinger. It’s used to lay eggs in the larvae of pigeon horntail wasps. The larva is a wood borer. Giant ichneumons don’t sting. I’m not sure they’re capable.

I watched a yellow-bellied sapsucker in North Dakota. It drills tiny holes in neatly spaced rows in tree bark, especially maples and hickories, and returns periodically to feed on the sap that oozes from them. It also eats bits of tree tissues, as well as insects attracted to the sap. It flycatches and eats fruits and berries. The holes they make are often mistaken for insect damage, but holes made by insects have fewer, smaller holes more randomly placed. Sapsuckers don’t suck sap, they lick sap, like me attacking a stirring spoon.

Silver is the right word to describe a silver maple. Even a light wind causes the tree to display the silvery undersides of its leaves.

In late summer, trees, shrubs and fences become festooned with crowns of fragrant white flowers. The leaves and individual flowers look like those of cucumbers. This is wild cucumber, a native, annual plant with spiny fruit. Its preferred habitat is along streams, swamps, moist thickets or roadsides. The large, alternate leaves are palmate with three to five pointed lobes. The branching vines grow to 30 feet long, climbing onto other foliage with curling, three-forked tendrils that arise from the leaf axils. The tendrils coil when they touch anything and become attached.

Meeting adjourned

“Kind words, kind looks, kind acts, and warm hand-shakes, these are means of grace when men in trouble are fighting their unseen battles.”

— John Hall, pastor