Al Batt: Close enough to the right name

Published 5:21 pm Tuesday, January 25, 2022

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Echoes from the Loafers’ Club Meeting

Is your last name pronounced Ignaszewski?   

Close enough.

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Oh, are you related to Bob Closenough?

Driving by Bruce’s drive

I have a wonderful neighbor named Bruce. Whenever I pass his drive, thoughts occur to me. My expectations for temperatures in January are quite low, but we don’t always get what we expect.  Yesterday, when I was younger, smoking was cool. Famous actors smoked, the star center fielder of the Yankees smoked, teachers smoked and doctors smoked openly. Armed forces personnel were given cigarettes by tobacco companies who hoped they’d develop a nicotine habit. I was stumbling around Gray’s Drug in Dinkytown when I detected a heavenly smell. I lived in a dorm, so I didn’t experience many heavenly smells, but quickly found the source. It was a guy who looked like a teaching assistant. I’m not sure what a teaching assistant looks like, but he looked like one should look. I came up from behind and put my hand on his shoulder. It frightened him and I needed to assure him I meant no harm. I wanted to know what he was smoking in a calabash pipe slightly larger than him. He insisted it was legal and swore it was cherry blend tobacco. I went to the smoking section of the drugstore and found the tobacco. It was Middleton’s Cherry Blend. It was meant for discriminating smokers like the one I was about to become. I bought the tobacco, pipe cleaners, a pipe tool (tamper, reamer, poker, scraper and fire extinguisher all in one) and a 99-cent Missouri Meerschaum, otherwise known as a corncob pipe. The drugstore gave me two matchbooks enclosing crummy matches. I rushed outside, stuffed the pipe with tobacco, lit up and tried smoking it. It burned off the tip of my tongue. It grew back. There are lizard people in my bloodline.

My father-in-law was a chronic pipe smoker. He mixed Sir Walter Raleigh with Mapleton tobacco in his pipes, some of which were made by Herter’s with its headquarters in Waseca. My wife and I had given him several Herter’s pipes as gifts, so he had to use them when around us. He enjoyed Herter’s Grizzly Bear tobacco, too. George Herter thought his solitary pipe tobacco had achieved perfection. There was the rumor it was flavored with bruin dung, but that remains unproven.

I sat, not smoking a pipe, in my office and listened to my long-suffering wife’s utterances from the kitchen as she watched a televised basketball game in which a granddaughter played. We each watched on a separate tablet. It’s safer that way. Her vocalizations traveled from agony to joy as the granddaughter’s team emerged victorious.

An above average kindness

Yesterday, when I was younger, I headed  home after working in South Dakota. Snowstorms surprised us in those days. Now the forecasts are astoundingly accurate. It began to snow. I thought I could beat the storm. I wanted to get home. If I could just get home, everything would be fine. It kept snowing. It became an epic blizzard. I nearly made it to Worthington and spent a night with a farm family who believed what is written in Hebrews, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” I’m no angel, but I made it home. The kindness of those good people echoes many years later.

Nature notes

Diane Norvell of Owatonna asked if it’s unusual to see robins in Minnesota in January. The great poet Anonymous wrote, “The north wind doth blow, and we shall have snow, and what will the robin do then, poor thing? He’ll sit in a barn, and keep himself warm, and hide his head under his wing, poor thing!” A small percentage of our robins spend the winter in Minnesota. And why not? It’s a winter wonderland. Wintering robins are gregarious, finding security in flocks and sleeping in conifers to stay warm at night. They frequent areas with open water. Robins can survive cold weather if they find enough food to stoke their furnaces. They feed on fruits and berries of hackberry, crabapple, hawthorn, juniper, sumac, mountain ash and buckthorn. Robins that migrated south wander north into areas where the temperatures average about 37° and earthworms are emerging. Our wintering emotional support robins are nomadic and follow the food. You could feed these winter robins, who aren’t harbingers of spring or typical feeder birds, crumbled suet, raisins, cranberries, mealworms or diced fruits.

Meeting adjourned

“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.”—John F. Kennedy.