Al Batt: I never noticed that before

Published 5:39 pm Tuesday, May 17, 2022

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Echoes from the Loafers’ Club Meeting

Good morning.

Can I ask a stupid question?

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Can you ever.

Driving by Bruce’s drive

I have a wonderful neighbor named Bruce. Whenever I pass his drive, thoughts occur to me. Each day, I make it a point to notice something I’d not noticed before. A friend invited me to dinner. I was between meals, so I accepted. When I arrived at the restaurant, I noticed I was being given a surprise retirement party. It was a big surprise to me. I wasn’t retiring from the part-time job. They gave me an enjoyable meal, a nifty plaque and many kind words. I think they thought my wobbly medical condition at the time would make it impossible for me to continue. I asked them if they were hinting. They said “no,” but I have to wonder. I’m keeping the plaque.

I worked in Germany, doing field testing of Zeiss binoculars. They tested well. I talked to a German about Germany’s anti-jokes as we watched white storks nesting on the roof of a house. An ancient belief is that a nesting stork protects a house from fire, lightning and other natural disasters. The anti-joke discussion began after he said, “What’s the difference between a stork? Both legs are the same length, especially the left one.” “Two storks were flying over a house. One said, ‘Hello.’” “Two men were walking down the street. One man tripped and broke his arm. The other man was named Ernst.” I added two. “There were two storks on a roof. One said, ‘This roof needs new shingles.’ The other said, ‘Oh, my goodness—a talking stork!’” “What happens if you drop a red stone into the Black Sea? It will get wet.”

Glass warfare

The weather brought in the artillery. Some angry golf ball-sized hail had battered my car while I worked in the St. Cloud area this May. Windshields and rear windows of other cars needed to be replaced. It wasn’t flossing with barbed wire, but it was disturbing. The good thing about hail is—I guess there is no good thing about hail unless you’re in the auto glass repair and replacement business. One auto glass company vehicle had oversized mudflaps intended to prevent its rear tires from kicking up rocks. They weren’t out drumming up business.

Nature notes

A swallow whispered past. Accompanied by the droning of bumblebees, the flitting of cabbage white and mourning cloak butterflies and the darting of dragonflies (the first I see each spring are common green darners and variegated meadowhawks), I stooped to enjoy a closer look at spring ephemerals. The plants are familiar neighbors. I greeted them as if they were long-lost friends. Fiddleheads, the tightly coiled tips of ferns, proliferated. They’re named for their resemblance to the curled decoration at the end of stringed instruments.

Good numbers of palm warblers led me down a trail and yellow-rumped warblers were busy in every other tree. Other warblers—Nashville, American redstart, Tennessee, orange-crowned, black-and-white and yellow were here and there. A single Cape May warbler brightened the day. Scarlet tanagers were ornaments in the trees and ruby-crowned kinglets, with fireworks for a crown, used megaphones to produce their loud sounds. Spotted sandpipers were numerous along the water’s edge. My father called them teeter-snipe. Forster’s tern calls of “ki-arr” came from all directions. Mudflats were occupied with pectoral sandpipers and both species of yellowlegs. I walked with Bob Janssen of Golden Valley. Bob is the godfather of Minnesota birding. We watched a Cooper’s hawk (the “chicken hawk” of my youthful years when I tried to make millions by raising exotic breeds of small chickens) harassing three turkey vultures with menacing flight maneuvers and a lengthy series of cak-cak-cak calls. A Cooper’s hawk was on the ground in my yard, hiding in the tangles, hoping to ambush a bird. I saw a solitary sandpiper at the edge of a cow pasture and a green heron at a lakeside park. I watched pelicans fish communally on a lake. The birds in the back of the feeding group flew to the front to get a better place in the buffet line. The pelicans leapfrogged and fished.

As I drove, I found it impossible to ignore the chartreuse color of weeping willows. I watched a red-tailed hawk dive at a northern harrier hunting near the ground. There was no contact, but the harrier fled the scene. A good idea.

Multi-colored Asian lady beetles found my garage to their liking.

Meeting adjourned

“Neither genius, fame, nor love show the greatness of the soul. Only kindness can do that.”—Jean Baptiste Henri Lacordaire.