• 39°

Al Batt: Memories of cold are cold

Echoes from the Loafers’ Club Meeting

Twenty below zero temperatures are one of those things that make memories.

I’ll remember my eyelids freezing open.

I didn’t say they’d be good memories.

Driving by Bruce’s drive

I have a wonderful neighbor named Bruce. Whenever I pass his drive, thoughts occur to me. I was up early chirping with the birds. It was -23°. “Good -23° morning,” I greeted the first caller of the day. I’m happy the National Weather Service came up with a new Wind Chill Temperature index in 2001. Before that, they calculated a 25° temperature with 25 mph winds at -7°. The new wind chill index calculates it at +9°. That helps. At least the gelid weather means I can walk in a winter wonderland without having to carry a snow shovel.

I recall the thrill of putting 100,000 miles on an ancient vehicle. A friend, Mark Sorenson of Hollandale, played in a band. One night, at the end of a gig in a bar, Mark carried his guitar and amp to his pickup. He started the truck to let it warm up because that’s what we did in those days. Mark noticed the odometer had 99,998 miles on it. He’d be turning it over to 100,000 miles that night. That was a major accomplishment. Mark went back into the bar to collect his pay. Once that transaction had been completed, he went outside. His vehicle was gone. The thief, later apprehended, drove the car enough to deny Mark the satisfaction of racking up 100,000 miles.

Today’s auto experts say a car without a carburetor shouldn’t run more than 30 seconds before being driven. The engine warms faster while being driven, and it’s better to turn an engine off and start it again than leave it idling. The defroster might need time to defrost.

I spent a lot of time in the company of jumper cables in my youth. My father told me to attach one red jumper cable clamp to the positive terminal on the dead battery and the other end of that cable to the positive terminal on the working battery. Attach one black jumper cable clamp to the negative terminal of the working battery and the other end of that cable to an unpainted piece of metal on the car with the dead battery. When done, disconnect in the reverse order. He said changing oil too often was better than not often enough. The “w” in motor oil stands for winter. The first number in oil codes refers to viscosity and the lower the number, the thinner the oil. For example, a 5W- motor oil flows better at lower temperatures than 10W- motor oil. All-season tires were regular tires used when we couldn’t afford snow tires. We pumped the brakes in those days. Now if I pump them while braking hard, I lose the benefits of the Antilock Brake Systems (ABS).

In my dream, a neighbor, known for his slothfulness, had a mule shod in the man’s old shoes. The mule had no ABS, but the shoes were all-season and it had 4-hoof-drive. I suggested the man might have things easier if he worked harder. He said, “Walk a mule in my shoes before you criticize me.”

Nature notes

There was this kid in junior high who was a definite weasel and put John Travolta to shame on the dance floor. Weasels perform a war dance when they’ve cornered prey. They bob and hop in a dance. One theory is the weasel’s twisting and darting distracts, confuses and/or hypnotizes prey. A UK research study concluded rabbits had died of fright after being subjected to the dance. Occasionally, a weasel dances without prey as an audience. Practicing?

Did John James Audubon believe hummingbirds migrated on the backs of geese? I can’t say that’s true. I didn’t know the man. I’ve never talked to a waterfowl hunter who found a hummingbird hitchhiking on a goose. I don’t know how that hitchhiking myth started or why it endures. I suspect it was because people couldn’t understand how a tiny bird could fly long distances on its own. If I were a hummingbird, I’d want a free ride, but hummingbirds and geese don’t migrate at the same time or to the same places. And geese don’t serve meals on flights.

Meeting adjourned

“So many things I can’t control. So many hurts that happen everyday. So many heartaches that pierce the soul. So much pain that won’t ever go away. How do we make it better? How do we make it through? What can we do when there’s nothing we can do? We can be kind.” — Nancy LaMott