Al Batt: A question of lightning rods

Published 6:50 am Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Echoes from the Loafers’ Club Outdoor Meeting

I want to be a millionaire just like my father.

Your father was wealthy?

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No, but he wanted to be a millionaire too.

Driving by Bruce’s drive

I have a wonderful neighbor, named Bruce. Whenever I pass his drive, thoughts occur to me, such as: Thunderstorms are a seasonal joy. When I was someone who spent many hours in a dairy barn, a barn fire anywhere in the word-of-mouth area brought out the lightning-rod salesmen and their enthusiastic sales pitches featuring promises of dire consequences if no business was transacted. Sales of everything from life insurance to furnaces are based at least partially on fear.

Ben Franklin’s invention, the lightning rod, was never meant to repel or attract lightning. If lightning was to strike a structure, a lightning rod was supposed to channel the discharge through an attached grounding wire to the ground, sparing the building. It wasn’t easy for Ben. Some church elders feared the wrath of God if Franklin was allowed to “control the artillery of heaven” with his “heretical rod.” The pastor of Boston’s Old South Church blamed lightning rods for causing an earthquake. My father and I listened to their sales talks maintaining we were in an unequal battle with the elements and lightning rods would help even things up. The Statue of Liberty gets hit often by lightning, so why wouldn’t our buildings? In the country, lightning doesn’t have as many houses to pick from as in town. Our troubles would end with the purchase of handsomely constructed lighting rods. “You may never have lost a barn, but your neighbor has. Install lightning rods and your insurance rates will drop. The insurance company will pay you.”

We’d heard it all before. My father pointed out a barn swallow’s muddy nest in the barn. He declared that a barn housing a barn swallow nest is never hit by lightning. We were protected by swallows.

“How about you, son, don’t you believe in lightning rods?” asked the lightning-rod man.

“I believe they exist,” I replied.

Those thrilling  days of yesteryear 

Locations were given in the number of miles to the nearest paved road. Mother described town as being just a hop, skip and a jump from our farm. Have you ever tried traveling that way for a few miles? It’s exhausting. Fortunately, it wasn’t the only way to get there.

My neighbor Crandall says

“I was born with nothing and I still have most of it. My son told me that I don’t know anything about computers. Why does he insist on telling me what I already know I don’t know?”

The old joke department

A priest, a minister and a rabbit walked into a bar while social distancing. The rabbit was there because of autocorrect.

What is the closest thing to Silver? Lone Ranger’s bottom.

What did the green grape say to the purple grape? Breathe! Breathe!

What do you call a wet baby owl? A moist owlet.

Nature notes

The man told me he’s spending more time with his small dog. He and the dog spend 15 minutes each morning staring out the window. The dog points things out with its eyes. They particularly enjoy watching the crows. Crows are always up to something.

American white pelicans flew overhead. Their 9-foot wingspans carry them unusually long distances to forage for food. Fishing trips of 30 miles one-way isn’t uncommon.

I find great joy in seeing Canada anemone, a North American native perennial growing in moist meadows, along wet wooded edges, in road ditches and along stream banks. Its white flowers have showy yellow center stamens on long, stalked branches. They compete with oxeye daisies for my attention.

June brings summer and is our wettest month of the year. Summer coaxes flowers from the woods to bloom in the open. June is typically when I first see flashing fireflies. Some years, I see them in May, but from the middle of June through July is when I see them most often.

Dragonflies on wing become numerous after emerging from their larval stages in the water. I noticed small masses of sticky, frothy bubbles at leaf nodes of plants. The white foam blobs are produced by the nymphs of spittlebugs, which are small insects getting their name from the globs of foamy spit they create along the stems of plants. The foam serves a number of purposes: Protecting the nymph from predators as well as providing the tender nymph with insulation from temperature extremes and low humidity.

Meeting adjourned

Appreciate those who do favors you didn’t ask for. It’s a good deal. Be kind.