Al Batt: Please turn down the ear ringing

Published 6:35 pm Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Echoes from the Loafers’ Club Meeting     

I hope it isn’t bothering you. It’s pretty loud.

What is?

The ringing in my ears.

Driving by Bruce’s drive

I have a wonderful neighbor named Bruce. Whenever I pass his drive, thoughts occur to me. April is one of the 12 cruelest months of the year. Our sense of season fails us repeatedly as what passes as a spring day can sometimes be summed up in a single word: “Yuck.” It was the calm before the storm before the storm before the storm. The day had little to recommend it as spring. It rained. The rain came down because it rarely goes up. It was a serious drenching. When it rains, it pours. In 1911, the Morton Salt Company began adding magnesium carbonate (an anti-caking agent) to salt, which allowed it to pour freely, even in humid weather. The company uses calcium silicate today. The Morton Salt Girl and the slogan “When It Rains It Pours” is a branding triumph. I wondered how much it had rained, so I checked the rain gauge when the precipitation paused. Not a drop. It was completely dry. I made a mental note to move the measuring device outdoors.

The cafe chronicles 

I like restaurants with a toothpick dispenser near the cash register. America has 735 billionaires according to Forbes. A decade ago, Forbes counted only 424. The decade before that, 243. They keep multiplying and their collective wealth grows. I wonder if any of them are fans of toothpick dispensers?

The bibliophile’s report

I read “The Lincoln Highway” by Amor Towles recently. It’s a long book (576 pages) that’s a quick read. I included the number of pages because the choice of a  book for reports given when I was in school was often based on its number of pages. It’s filled with twists and turns, and driven by interesting characters. One character was described as someone who would walk a mile out of his way to keep from stepping on a caterpillar. That might be me. A quote I liked was, “Wouldn’t it have been wonderful, thought Woolly, if everybody’s life was like a piece in a jigsaw puzzle. Then no one person’s life would ever be an inconvenience to anyone else’s. It would just fit snugly in its very own, specially designed spot, and in so doing, would enable the whole intricate picture to become complete.”

Much of the epic journey on the Lincoln Highway was done in an old Studebaker. The Lincoln Highway was the first transcontinental road for automobiles in the U.S., dedicated in 1913. It runs over 3,000 miles between New York City and San Francisco.

Nature notes

Strong winds blew the nyjer seeds from a feeder. It was a thistleblower. I walked to the intersection of birds and me, hoping to discover new things. There were songs in the trees. They made me want to join the band. European starlings imitated meadowlarks, peewees, robins, cowbirds and house sparrows. A great blue heron lumbered through the air. It’s about the size of a sandhill crane, 4 feet from tip of beak to tip of tail and with similar wingspans. The heron weighs 5 pounds and a crane could double that. Confrontational red-winged blackbird males called from the cattails.

An insect hatch provides a food crop of caterpillars for upcoming warbler arrivals. I watched a brown creeper on the trunk of a tree, looking as if it were a piece of animated bark. A flicker called, “Flicka, flicka, flicka.” I didn’t grade any of the birds. I merely marked them as present.

I watched a ring-billed gull looking as if it were landing on top of a hooded merganser on water. The merganser dived out of the way. The gull repeated the behavior several times. I suspect it was an attempt to steal any fish the diving duck might have caught.

I saw a pair of trumpeter swans. I recalled a time I stood along a river on the foggiest of days. Two swans emerged from the fog, their white color enhanced by the contrast. They made no vocalizations as they flew over my head, but I heard their wings. The hair on my arms stood at attention and a shiver ran up and down my spine. It was a glorious experience.

I walked around the Mayo Clinic Campus in Rochester while watching a peregrine falcon flying overhead. It was a superb aerialist. Amazingly, I bumped into neither post nor person. The blessing of a peregrine.

Meeting adjourned

A sign at the Wintergreen Natural Foods Coop in Albert Lea reads, “Be silly. Be honest. Be kind.”