• 18°

The slippery slope of winter

Echoes from the Loafers’ Club Meeting

I was hoping to get a lot done today.

Why didn’t you?

I spent all day making a list of things to do.

Driving by Bruce’s drive

I have a wonderful neighbor, named Bruce. Whenever I pass his drive, thoughts occur to me, such as: It was springlike in the house, but winter was being an unwelcome companion outdoors. An icy driveway brightens my day like a total eclipse. There was so much ice, I considered getting a polar bear. I decided against it as I’d have to build a polar bear house and I doubt I’d get around to finishing it. It’s as the sign on the wall of the cafe read: “We never finish anyth.”

There isn’t an off-season for family and friends

I attended a game in which a group of polite hecklers were bothering an opponent shooting a free throw. “It’s not just a boulder, it’s a rock,” they yelled.

Not long after that my granddaughter, Joey Batt, splashed a three-pointer to help Minnesota State win a game and the courtside announcer proclaimed, “A JB3!” Joey was one of five members of the all-freshmen team for the 16-team NSIC.

I paid my respects to a basketball-playing friend not long ago. I did so by bringing a sympathy card that was too big for its envelope, expressing condolences, hugging, and sharing stories about the deceased. Larry Pence of Albert Lea had been my basketball and softball teammate. I watched Larry play basketball in high school. I was a few years younger and was charged with the task of keeping a shot chart. I was given an official school clipboard and an official school pencil.

The Coach gave me the usual advice, “You can lead a horse to water but a pencil must be lead.” He’d learned a lot from watching Laurel & Hardy films. The shot chart was made up of letter-sized paper displaying an approximation of a basketball court. Anytime a player shot, I’d jot down the player’s number on the paper reflecting the spot on the floor where the attempt occurred. If the shot was made, I circled the number. If the shot was missed, no circling was required. I don’t know how I got the job. The responsible students must have been out sick. I kidded Larry that I didn’t have to sharpen the official school pencil once during his games because I never needed to circle his shots. That was far from the truth. He was a fine player and a fine friend.

Ask Al

“Any advice on buying shoes?” If you need a pair of size 14 shoes, it doesn’t work to buy two pairs of size 7 footwear, even if they are on sale. You will suffer the agony of the feet.

“I know you’ve had surgeries recently. What did you say to your surgeon before the operation?” Measure twice and cut once.

“What is your blood type?” Tired.

Nature notes

The blue jays were talkative. Mark Twain wrote, “You never saw a bluejay get stuck for a word. He is a vocabularized geyser.”

A snowplow grumbled by. It sounded tired. I was happy to see it. February was cold, but its warm sunlight melted snow. It had given itself plenty of snow to melt. “Light tomorrow with today!” said Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Freed from home by the snowplow’s good work, I drove around entertaining my camera. Most of the miles were on rural roads — some gravel and some hard surface. The snow gave a soft wind visibility. I saw more bald eagles than cows. How times have changed. You could say I drove the wrong roads, but it’s what I saw.

I saw a few pheasants. The loss of food due to a persistent cover of snow and/or ice is a killer. Waste grain, an important food source, becomes unavailable under a deep accumulation of snow. I read once that 300 kernels of corn per day maintains a pheasant’s weight. Captive pheasants have been able to survive several weeks without food, but they don’t expend energy avoiding predators and staying warm. A healthy wild pheasant could go three days without food. The annual survival rate of ring-necked pheasants is around 50 percent. Hens are more likely to succumb to starvation than roosters as the females enter winter in poor condition due to the high energy demands of nesting and rearing chicks. Strong winds can sometimes be beneficial to pheasants as they might free feeding areas of snow. Another problem for pheasants is the lack of suitable winter cover.

Meeting adjourned

“Kind words are like honey — sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” — Proverbs