Al Batt: The adventure capital of Alaska

Published 6:15 am Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Echoes from the Loafers’ Club Meeting

Can I help you change your tire?

No, I’ve got it, but I appreciate your asking.

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I appreciate your saying no.

Driving by Bruce’s drive

I have a wonderful neighbor named Bruce. Whenever I pass his drive, thoughts occur to me, such as: I came out of a hotel in Juneau, Alaska, easing around the morning by eating a breakfast apple. Juneau is a city that looks up to mountains and makes me feel as if a glacier is always watching. A raven, obviously accustomed to begging from humans, flew close and stared at me. The common raven is our largest songbird. I tossed the apple core to it. It grabbed it greedily as a bear would snatch a salmon. Then the cavalry flew in. The raven, with the fruit held securely in its beak, flew off with a dozen other ravens in mad pursuit. The ravens were flying. The plane I’d wanted to be on wasn’t due to uncooperative weather.

Cafe chronicles

The smell of cigarette smoke lingered outside the door. I ordered a BLT. It was good, but the lettuce was weary. A curator of local gossip talked as if each word cost him money. Then he put too many spoonfuls of sugar into his coffee. It must have been half sugar. He didn’t stir it because he didn’t like his coffee too sweet. One sip and the gossip flowed faster than the coffee.

A plethora of pulchritude

Haines is advertised as the adventure capital of Alaska. Folks come to Haines in an attempt to wear out cameras. A man from Colorado showed me photos of bald eagles he’d taken one morning along the Chilkat River. They were extraordinary. He was so happy with the beauty of Haines, he told me that if his camera broke and he was unable to take another photo on his trip, he’d be OK with that. Another person told me she was an avowed atheist, but she believed in heaven. She’d seen it in Haines. I’ve not been everywhere, but as an unabashed celebrator of life, I’ve found that everywhere I’ve been had a beauty. I visit Haines regularly. I didn’t realize how often until someone in Minneapolis showed me a lovely photo of a bald eagle in a tree. I said, “That’s in Haines.”

The surprised photographer said, “It is. Did you recognize the tree?”

“Yes, and I know the eagle,” I replied.

Don’t back down or up

I was going to use a friend’s 1997 vehicle that had more character than miles. It had a personality. Its garage, arranged in a neat and orderly fashion, held two vehicles, a boat, a 4-wheeler, and all the necessary accoutrements garages attract. “Back it out,” my friend said. He’d told me about another visitor breaking its rear window and I saw one of the outside mirrors was broken. I looked at the width of the vehicle and saw it wasn’t far short of the width of the garage door.  Discretion, being the better part of valor, was my choice. He backed his vehicle out slowly without a hitch. I was happily humbled.

The whales of November

Walk a mile in my shoes and you’ll end up in a bookstore. I walked miles in the Sitka, Alaska, sunshine — rain. My thoughts had become soggy. My presence in a bookstore was limited because I didn’t want to drip on any books.

I saw humpback whales in Sitka. Cellphones and cameras documented every whale movement. A thing of beauty would be a joy forever. You’d have thought the whales were holding a press conference regarding an impeachment. One whale led to an otter, a sea otter. I smiled and wished everyone could see what I saw.

Nature notes

Please join me at the Albert Lea Seed House at 9:30 a.m. on December 7. It’s a free visit about birds and nature. Bring your stories.

Barb Thompson of New Richland asked if large muskrat houses foretell a harsh winter. Muskrat houses are dome-shaped mounds of piled marsh plants that cover holes in the ice. Muskrat mounds can be confused with beaver lodges, but aren’t made of woody material. The rodents feed and rest inside. Folklore says muskrat houses are built big before a bad winter. I enjoy folklore, but was unable to find any scientific credibility in this one. Why are muskrat houses so big? Maybe the muskrats are eager beavers. I look at the size of ice-fishing shacks, the thickness of fishermen’s clothing, and the horsepower of their ice augers to forecast winters.

Folklore says when rabbits are fat in November, expect a long, cold winter. I spent a fruitless day trying to get a rabbit to sit on the bathroom scale I’d put outside.

Meeting adjourned

“The world needs you at the party starting real conversations, saying, ‘I don’t know,’ and being kind.”

— Charlie Kaufman