Al Batt: The weather holding sway over spring

Published 7:02 pm Tuesday, April 12, 2022

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Echoes from the Loafers’ Club Meeting

I get up at 3 o’clock every morning.

How do you get up so early?

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Driving by Bruce’s drive

I have a wonderful neighbor named Bruce. Whenever I pass his drive, thoughts occur to me. If a robin needs three snows on its tail before it’s truly spring, it’s truly spring and then some. Robins were on an organized tour of the state on a beautiful day except when it wasn’t. It had rained, snowed, iced and the wind was unrelenting. The weather had been miserably regular. Spring weather holds sway over every day and isn’t like the weather in normal places.

We dined at a Denny’s in South Dakota. I watched as a neighboring table got their meal. I told my bride they had ordered the same things we had. That couple took the food without comment and ate. We waited. I figured we looked as if we’d already eaten. The other table got another breakfast. They ate two breakfasts before we got one. As I watched the couple leave, I thought, “There but for us went we.” The server apologized, saying another waitress had given our order to the other table, but we needn’t worry, they wouldn’t have to pay for it. That was a relief. Our order came late. It was good. We paid for it.

Here and there

I serve proudly on the board of a nature tourist-based organization in Alaska. There’s little farming in Alaska, at least as we think of farming. The main crop is Midwesterners. They come on big cruise ships and look at mountains. Why do we like mountains? Because they’re nicer to sit on than tacks.

A speaking gig took me to St. Joseph, Missouri. I saw a replica of an old ad reading: “Wanted, young skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen, must be expert riders willing to risk death daily, orphans preferred. Wages $25 a week. Apply Central Overland Express.” I learned the ad wasn’t placed by the Pony Express.

Buffalo Bill Cody was a showman who claimed he’d served as a Pony Express rider and rode 384 miles in a single run, but there’s no record of him carrying the mail as he was probably in school in Kansas during the company’s existence. The ad likely was a part of the hype and fictional depictions in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. The Pony Express began in April 1860 and was shuttered in October 1861 when the completion of the first transcontinental telegraph line put it out of business.

Pony Express riders typically rode 75-100 miles at a stretch and changed horses at stations 5-20 miles apart. The Pony Express rider oath was “I do hereby swear, before the Great and Living God, that during my engagement, and while an employee of Russell, Majors and Waddell, I will, under no circumstances, use profane language, that I will drink no intoxicating liquors, that I will not quarrel or fight with any other employee of the firm, and that in every respect I will conduct myself honestly, be faithful to my duties, and so direct all my acts as to win the confidence of my employers, so help me God.” Despite this, riders weren’t known for their sobriety.

Nature notes

I followed a chickadee and liked it at every opportunity. Each chickadee is a prime symbol of the natural world. As I filled the feeders, a chickadee landed on my arm. I tried not to breathe.

Starlings cornered the yard. I was under a flock of countless starlings one day. It’s called a murmuration. They zoomed over me and I heard this incredible whoosh that was both thrilling and mesmerizing. It caused the hair on my arms to stand. It was a splendid gift.

Research by biologist Mark Miller in 1929 found the first robin songs began about 45 minutes before sunrise, but modern areas flooded with artificial light cause robins to sing much earlier today.

A birder in Ohio discovered a banded 28-year-old ring-billed gull, the oldest individual of that species on record. This proves a proper diet isn’t always important to longevity.

A report from the US Fish and Wildlife Service said bald eagles have quadrupled in population since 2009 in the lower 48.

A crow’s nest is a bulky bowl of dead twigs high in a tree. Nest construction begins in early March and could continue through June. There are 16-18 days of incubating and 20-40 days of nestlings. Crows typically use a nest once and fledge one brood a year. Few nests are repaired and reused the following year.

Nature blog

Meeting adjourned

“A kind word never broke anyone’s mouth.”—Irish proverb.