Al Batt: You can drive a lot of smoots while in Texas

Published 6:30 am Wednesday, July 29, 2020

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Echoes from the Loafers’ Club Meeting

What’s wrong?

I called my eye doctor, but he can’t see me.

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Sounds like he needs glasses.

Driving by Bruce’s drive

I have a wonderful neighbor named Bruce. Whenever I pass his drive, thoughts occur to me, such as: 2020 hasn’t been what I expected, but then no year, month, week or day ever is. There are days when I think I should walk around wearing curb feelers. Life takes us to unexpected places. I plan on enjoying the day. I do miss things. When I was president of the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union, we held meetings at the University of Minnesota’s Bell Museum. Often, a dozen of us headed to a Vietnamese restaurant in Dinkytown, where we’d each order a different dish. The dishes were passed and shared with others in the group. I won’t be doing that again soon.

I live about 3688.12 smoots from the nearest post office. A smoot is a unit of measurement equal to 5 feet 7 inches. In 1958, a fraternity at MIT used one of its pledges, the 5-foot-7 Oliver Smoot, Jr., as a unit of measure to mark off the Harvard Bridge in 10-smoot increments. I used to mosey many smoots out yonder with remarkable regularity. I’d drive some roads over and over. Some had so much traffic it was obvious that someone had left the gate open. Others had so little traffic I had time to notice things. I drove by one house in Nebraska so often through the years that I recognized changes. I paid attention when a different car lived in the drive or the garden’s size changed. Last time I went by, the white house had been painted yellow. I had to circle back for a second look. I didn’t approve of that modification.

A temporary Texan

“The sun has riz, the sun has set, and here we is in Texas yet.” I could drive a long time without leaving Texas. I’ve worked in Austin, Houston, Dallas, McAllen, Mission, Weslaco, Donna, Pharr, Alamo, Harlingen, etc. Norwegians use the word “Texas” as slang for wild or crazy. Cinco de Mayo has become a celebration of Mexican heritage, but originally it celebrated the Mexican army’s May 5, 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla.

It seemed right to read some of Larry McMurtry books in Texas. I enjoyed “Lonesome Dove,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning, 843-page cattle-drive epic that was turned into a TV miniseries, “The Last Picture Show (made into a movie), and “Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen.” I didn’t read his “Terms of Endearment” or “Horseman, Pass By” (filmed as “Hud”) that also became movies I’ve seen.

In 2008, the American Film Institute voted “The Searchers” the greatest western of all time. It was filmed at Monument Valley, a wild and sparsely populated region on the Arizona-Utah border, of which John Wayne said, “Monument Valley is the place where God put the West.”

Despite claims, the role of Matt Dillon on “Gunsmoke” wasn’t offered to John Wayne. Wayne considered TV unworthy of his talents. Wayne, born in Winterset, Iowa, was 6-foot-4. James Arness, born in Minneapolis, was 6-foot-7. Arness played the laconic marshal of Dodge City, Kansas. According to “True West” magazine, Dillon was shot 56 times, knocked unconscious 29 times, stabbed three times and poisoned once in the 635 episodes of “Gunsmoke” that spanned 20 years. Arness was shot in the leg at Anzio Beach during WWII. His brother, Peter Graves, starred in the TV show “Mission Impossible” and the movie “Airplane.”

Nature notes

Count the number of cricket chirps in 15-seconds. Add 40 to that number to get an approximate temperature in Fahrenheit.

Five weeks after Canada geese hatch, the adults molt, which renders them flightless until the goslings can fly at 9 to 10 weeks of age. That’s typically during the second half of July.

Pam Martin of Great Bend, Kansas, said when she was a girl, her cousin had a pet crow that mimicked the sounds of human sneezes and ringing telephones. It was so good, it fooled the family’s telephone-hating dog into barking.

Ken Abraham originally from New Richland and now retired from Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources, told me of his visit to Portugal. There were legions of the high-flying, swooping, acrobatic birds with boomerang-shaped wings that spend most of their lives in the air. He saw four species of swifts there — pallid, alpine, white-rumped and common, but no Taylor Swift.

Meeting adjourned

The unwritten rules of the Waffle House: Be kind, be respectful, and don’t overstay when others are waiting for a table.