Al Batt: May the chameleon of seasons

Published 6:47 pm Tuesday, May 10, 2022

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Echoes from the Loafers’ Club Meeting   

You make a sound argument.

Really? You never agree with me.

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That’s because your arguments are nothing but sound.

Driving by Bruce’s drive

I have a wonderful neighbor named Bruce. Whenever I pass his drive, thoughts occur to me. It’s May. It may be sunny, it may be cloudy, it may be rainy, it may be calm, it may be windy. I remind myself that we rent the weather by the day. There is greening galore in May—and there is Mother’s Day. I miss my mother. If someone said something nice about me, my father was happy to hear it, but my mother believed it.

I worked in Austin, Texas, helping to keep Austin weird. I went to a BBQ joint—calling it a joint in a complimentary way. The restaurant barbecued everything, including my eating utensils. It was all good. Austin is famous for its music and musicians performed everywhere I went. The city is also known for its love of winged animals taking wing at sunset. Late July/early August is the peak season when 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats fly out from the Congress Avenue Bridge to hunt insects. In the early 1980s, when only 350,000 people lived in Austin, some feared a “rabies apocalypse” since the bats outnumbered the humans. Signatures were collected on petitions requesting the  extermination of the colony. The bat colony was saved through education that quelled fears. No apocalypse occurred. I took photos of the bats. Click-and-release.

The bags took a wrong turn at Eagan

My wife and I went to Israel. We waited in several lines to learn that our luggage hadn’t been lost on the way there, it had been misrouted. It had taken a wrong turn out of the MSP airport. It took a while for it to catch up with us. The airline acted quickly and gave us everything we needed: a small, reusable plastic bag featuring their name, a toothbrush that came in two pieces, rock-hard toothpaste, lip balm, papery slippers and an eye mask. The amenity kit was a kit without a caboodle. It was everything we had (plus purchased T-shirts) until our bags found us four days later. I used the eye mask while pretending our bags were with us.

I’ve learned

When some people weigh in, the conversation gets heavy.

There are few things rarer than people who are at their ideal weight.

Vital visitations

I spoke at Brick-Meger Funeral Home’s 125th anniversary in Owatonna. I’ve put many miles on in funeral homes while paying respects to those important to me. Giffy Olson was the funeral director, furniture store operator, postmaster and city clerk in Hartland when I was a small boy. I have recollections of accompanying my parents to visitations there. Most of the dearly departed seemed older than the hills. They weren’t. I learned about them and their lives by traveling to and past a casket. Life is a series of tossing rocks into a lake and learning from the resulting ripples.

Bad joke department

If Ralph is 83 and his wife is 23, how much money does Ralph have?

So what if you don’t know what “apocalypse” means? It’s not the end of the world.

I was asked, “What’s the ninth letter of the alphabet?” I took a guess and I was right.    

Nature notes

I felt a vernal urge to ramble through ephemeral wildflowers and walked in the woods of wisdom past bloodroot, Dutchman’s breeches, anemone and trout lily. I watched mourning cloak (which hibernates as an adult in Minnesota) and red admiral butterflies feeding on tree sap.

I see the last juncos in my yard in May each year. Other native sparrows pass through: fox, white-throated, white-crowned, Harris’s and Lincoln’s. I saw native sparrows that remain here—song, field (it seems as if I’m hearing them everywhere), swamp, vesper and chipping. I’ll plan on seeing savannah, grasshopper, and clay-colored sparrows on breeding bird surveys I do and hope to see or hear a Henslow’s. House sparrows, which were called English sparrows in my youth, aren’t natives and aren’t related to our native sparrows.

April typically marks the beginning of the high-risk season for oak wilt. This year’s cold spring delayed the onset of the season. The DNR recommends not pruning oaks from April through July as a preventative measure to curb the spread of the deadly oak wilt disease.

It was an honor to have Ray Brown read my nature tales on radio stations in Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Vermont and Rhode Island. I’m a humbled hick.

Meeting adjourned

In a world that doesn’t always make sense, kindness does.