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Al Batt: The ins and outs of holding one’s breath

Echoes from the Loafers’ Club Masked Meeting

I believe it’s good luck to hold my breath when an ambulance goes by.

I never heard of doing that.

Are you going to start?

No, I think it’d be better luck if I held my breath when a hearse went by.

Driving by Bruce’s drive

I have a wonderful neighbor, named Bruce. Whenever I pass his drive, thoughts occur to me, such as: I owned a 1959 Rambler Six Custom Sedan when I was a teen. It had a radio and rust. I decided to scrape off the rust. I had yellow paint and no money, so I covered the scraped spots with yellow paint. You can’t be a true idiot without experience. The result was a polka-dotted car. That made it easy to find in a parking lot. To give the car an elegance, I bartered for three used baby moon hubcaps.

A friend, Jim Finseth, said his father (Ken) had worked at Pop Moon’s in New Richland. That was a Phillips 66 gas station before gas stations became convenience stores. Pop sold gas and to supplement the family income, he sold alcohol (Moonshine?) during Prohibition. He was caught and fined. In 1934, he sold the station and moved to California to escape his notoriety and winter’s cold. Pop bought a restaurant there, which became Moon’s Cafe. His son Dean started Moon Automotive and in 1954 produced a spun-aluminum wheelcover called the Moon Disc. The business later became Moon Equipment and made baby moon hubcaps that turned my polka-dotted 1959 Rambler Six Custom Sedan into a boss hot rod.

Keeping a lawn story short

The lawn mower was invented in 1830 by Edwin Beard Budding, an English engineer. What did people do about lawns before then? Ignored, ate or used a scythe on them. Had no lawn or grazed livestock. Our riding lawn mower is dilatory, inclined to delay or waste time. In other words, it doesn’t work. We’ve had it repaired several times, but it refuses to go back for mower.

Everyone looks good when bending over in a garden

Gardening is no bowl of cherries. It’s not even a bed of roses. Or maybe it is a bed of roses, complete with thorns. We’re all in this together. That includes rabbits, deer, chipmunks, squirrels, slugs and a dazzling array of worms and insects. The rabbits have been eating well this year. Apparently, the rabbit economy needed a stimulus package. The secret is to raise only onions. Rabbits aren’t fond of them.

Nature notes

Female buffalo gnats (turkey gnats or black flies) bite chunks from my skin and feed on the blood. They punch above their weight and cause intense reactions and painful itching. The end of May and early June is prime time for these insects that breed in moving water. I’m happy I can the see gnats, but I’m never happy to see them.

An indigo bunting sang “Fire; fire; where? where? here; here; see it? see it?” This bird nests in brushy and weedy habitats on the edges of farm fields, woods, roads and railroads. I see nests in raspberry thickets and on corn and ragweed plants.

A red-headed woodpecker stores insects, nuts and seeds under bark, in cracks in fenceposts, under shingles, etc. It catches flying insects and forages on the ground. It occasionally drills holes in dead trees searching for wood-boring larvae, but flying insects are more important to its diet.

I heard the rattle of a belted kingfisher. The scientific name for this top-heavy appearing bird is Megaceryle alcyon. In Greek mythology, Halcyone was the daughter of Aeolus, god of the winds. She was changed into a kingfisher by other gods. Each winter, Aeolus calms the winds briefly so Halcyone could incubate her eggs in peace. The expression “halcyon days,” means a time of peace, joy and success.

Marcella Goette of New Richland found a dead yellow-billed cuckoo. I hear a cuckoo’s hollow, wooden-sounding croaking call often given in response to loud noises. Its tendency to call at thunder led to its colloquial name, the rain crow. This prodigious eater of caterpillars produces a guttural “ka-ka-ka-ka-ka-kow-kow-kowlp-kowlp-kowlp-kowlp” on hot, muggy days tending to engender thunderstorms.

I watched a groundhog (woodchuck or whistle-pig) eating mulberry leaves in a tree. It also enjoys Dutch clovers and dandelions.

Toni and James Perschbacher of Albert Lea are being visited by a banded pigeon. The bands indicate the racing pigeon’s organization, club and its hatch year. I get many reports of lost pigeons and have found most owners aren’t interested in recovering a poor performer, so enjoy its company.

Meeting adjourned

“Kindness, like grain, increases by sowing.” — English proverb