Al Batt: In a world of COVID-19 teaching a cat math

Published 7:01 am Wednesday, April 15, 2020

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Echoes from the Loafers’ Club Teleconference

My wife gave me a Fitbit.

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It’s great. Now I know exactly how many steps it is from my bed to the sofa.

Driving by Bruce’s drive

I have a wonderful neighbor, named Bruce. Whenever I pass his drive, thoughts occur to me, such as: I’d been trying to remember what day of the week it was, when in a bold move, I rose from a comfortable chair and tried to teach basic algebra to our cat. How teachers do their jobs, I don’t know.

I have many Batt habits and some are bad. I’m trying not to touch anything I wouldn’t lick. I’m wearing a baseball glove on one hand and a potholder on the other to keep me from touching my face.

In a world between hope and doubt, people struggle to maintain a social distance from refrigerators. Before long, they’re tanning by the light of an open refrigerator. Some wear masks at home to keep from eating so much. No one wants their old hula hoop to fit snugly.

A bowling ball named Jerry

I hadn’t been bowling since they’d made the balls round and put holes in them, but I did on Leap Day. I thought I might not be able to bowl when I asked for size 14 bowling shoes. The clerk said, “You could just as well wear shoeboxes,” but she found me a lovely set of clown shoes.

I had shoes. I needed a bowling ball. I chose a dark-colored one so I could pick it out from the pins. The ball was named Jerry. At least that was the name etched into it. I was afraid I’d roll a no-hitter. I’d pitched them before — in softball.

I commenced bowling. I worried there might be math involved, but the scoring was done automatically. Disproving the old adage that lightning never strikes the same place twice, I threw three straight strikes. A turkey by a turkey. I rolled a 140 and retired.

Those thrilling days of yesteryear

Gary Hansen was a banker in Hartland. A fine man. One day, he was on a stepladder, washing the outside windows of the bank. Tom’s Barber Shop was down the street and it was a rascal’s lair. The denizens saw Gary, so they called the bank. Gary heard the ring. This was when people answered their phones, which were landlines only. All calls were important. Gary ran into the bank to answer the phone. They hung up before he could do that. One call should have been enough but it wasn’t.

Nature notes

I enjoy watching the spring bird shows. They change each day. Birds become more vocal, each having a story to tell. I love to hear the vesper sparrow sing the evening vespers, “Listen to my evening sing-ing-ing-ing.”

Male pheasants “crow” throughout the day all year, but especially at dawn and dusk in spring. Roosters also utter a series of loud, two-note calls when flushed.

Blue-winged teal are among the last ducks to return in the spring and leave early in the fall. The drakes defend mates, but not territories. Because of this, their nests are more concentrated than those of other ducks.

My yard entertained many common grackles. A heap of birds in one lump. They are common and widespread, but the North American Breeding Bird Survey shows a population decline of 58 percent from 1966 to 2014. Grackles dab natural insect repellents on their plumage. This includes ants, marigolds, lemon slices, walnut juice and chokecherries.

I spotted a couple of gray partridges in a field. Often called a Hungarian partridge, their North American Breeding Bird Survey populations declined by 60 percent from 1966–2015.

Red-tailed hawks were vigilant while perched on posts along roads not far from an old farm place where a wooden corn crib stood. The slatted walls encouraged the drying of ears of corn. Those gaps made such a crib a giant bird feeder. On the farm I grew up on, red-headed woodpeckers found those corn cribs to their liking.

I saw rock pigeons. These are the birds that people think of as barn pigeons or the street-smart birds seen in city parks. Pigeons are interesting and smart. Pigeons pass the mirror test. They realize that their mirrored images aren’t real birds. The beginning of Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of Species,” is more about pigeons than anything else. I watched a pair of pigeons kiss. The male grasped the female’s bill and regurgitated food as a courtship gesture. Sweet.

Meeting adjourned

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