Al Batt: A good stick is a multi-use tool

Published 6:30 am Wednesday, August 5, 2020

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Echoes from the Loafers’ Club Meeting

I tried your advice on fixing my lawn mower.

Did it work?

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That doesn’t surprise me. It never works for me either.

Driving by Bruce’s drive

I have a wonderful neighbor named Bruce. Whenever I pass his drive, thoughts occur to me, such as: I was driving my automobile. It’s not a Chevrolet Silverado 1500, which according to a recent survey is the number one selling new and used vehicle in both Minnesota and Iowa. The Ford F-150 is the top seller of new autos in 22 states and used horseless carriages in 32 states. I used to spend an incredible amount of time in hotels. The most egregious surface for bacteria was the TV remote control. Light switches weren’t much better.

Some years ago, as luck would have it, I found myself in Luck, Wisconsin. It was my good luck, or good Luck, to be working in the “Yo-Yo Capital of the World.” In 1946, Duncan started manufacturing yo-yos in Luck, producing as many of 3,600 of them in an hour. Kids had yo-yos instead of video games in those bygone days. Napoleon and his army were said to have relaxed with yo-yos before the Battle of Waterloo. I don’t have video games or a yo-yo. I have Zoom. I taught a class on Zoom recently. I’ve taught writing, birding, journaling, storytelling, etc. classes, but always in person. I did the first few minutes of teaching trying to emulate my good teachers before I realized that my video screen had cut off my head. It wasn’t Zoom’s fault, it was mine. I’ve been married long enough to know when there’s a problem — I’m it. My only excuse was that I had none. The class expected a brainless instructor, but they got a headless one, too. I should have used a yo-yo.

A good stick

I’d eaten sweet corn. The variety was called Candy Corn, the seller told me, and it was mighty good. Floss wasn’t handy, so I used a toothpick. It was round, not one of those brittle, flat picks. A toothpick was the stick I needed. If they made them out of ironwood, a box could last a lifetime. That’s if you threw out the hygienic concerns about reusing a toothpick 100 times. The wood from ironwood is very hard and durable. It’s harder than Chinese arithmetic. The scientific name, “Ostrya,” comes from the Greek word ostrua meaning bonelike, referring to its hardness, which makes the wood an excellent source for tool handles and fence posts. The champion ironwood in Minnesota is in or near Wells. In 1998, it measured 37 feet tall.

I went for a walk. I looked for a stick. A good stick is a walking stick, cane, pointer and sword. A bad stick can be all of those things, too, but not as good. When I was a boy, it wasn’t a day without a good stick made from a maple branch or sapling. I could toss an acorn into the air and hit it with the stick as if the combination were a baseball and a bat.

Somebody told me that Minnesotans and Iowans are good at milling about. As a kid, I walked about, but I called it “walking around.” At a fair, I’d declare to my parents, “I’m going to walk around.” I did the same thing in a store or at Allis-Chalmers Days or John Deere Days. I still do that — with or without a good stick.

Nature notes

I staggered outside to begin an early morning walk. I was full of wonder and the spirit of adventure. I was greeted with the most spectacular view I’d seen since the day before. I wished summer had 1,000 days like it. Each day is fragile and fleeting, but a few more days of its caliber and a fellow could be deluded into believing the world had achieved perfection. Such hopeful thinking is an ancient and honorable tradition.

A sulphur butterfly landed on me. I hoped it brought good luck. Butterflies and fireflies are people pleasers. The neighbor’s rooster crowed as no politician or pundit could. Bee balm or wild bergamot (Monarda), a native plant, bloomed. It’s attractive to bees and butterflies. The bergamot oil added to Earl Grey tea comes from an entirely different plant. Mints bloomed on square stems. Ponds were covered with duckweed, a tiny, flowering plant. Barn swallows gathered on utility wires. They are the swallow species with what we think of as swallow tails.

Meeting adjourned

Staying positive doesn’t mean being happy all the time. It means that on hard days you know there are better ones coming. Be kind.