Al Batt: What is a ditch walrus? Never seen one

Published 3:49 pm Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Echoes from the Loafers’ Club Meeting

I haven’t seen a single ditch walrus this winter.

What is a ditch walrus?

I don’t know. I’ve never seen one.

Driving by Bruce’s drive

I have a wonderful neighbor named Bruce. Whenever I pass his drive, thoughts occur to me. It’s never summer in a snow globe, but someone had given the adverse weather conditions globe a serious shaking. A deputy sheriff parked near the end of our driveway on Christmas Eve. The officer was monitoring electric wires weighed down by snow sticking to them like laundry hanging from a line. A gelid Christmas Day brought the local volunteer fire departments to a neighborhood barn fire. January generated thundersnow and a dead skunk in the middle of the road. I got a close look at several snowflakes and caught one on my tongue.

A riotous New Year’s Eve filled with both hot and iced tea caused me to fall asleep before midnight. As my wife woke me to give me a kiss, I heard a crunching sound. That’s seldom a good thing. My wife mumbled she’d stepped on a cat toy. The cat toy turned out to be my eyeglasses that the new kitten had decided should be on the floor. Cats don’t pretend to be good, but they do enjoy spreading joy to the floor. The bent spectacles made me look more lop-sided than usual. A couple of days later, I was off to Eyeglass Repair World. I need glasses because my wife likes me to see what I’m wearing.

There aren’t enough words to hold the splendid memories

My heart sank when I heard the news.

Keith (Chuck or Charlie) Wakefield and I were thrown into the future together. He was a one-man micro-climate featuring sunny weather, my former neighbor, my former classmate, my former busmate, my former roommate and my friend. Like Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman,” we were “riding on a smile and a shoeshine.” There were more smiles than shoeshine.

Chuck fished Bone Lake, named because it resembles a femur when you squint while flying over it. Chuck wasn’t his given name. It was almost his middle name. His first name was Keith and his mother chose Charles as his middle name instead of his first name because she didn’t want him called Chuck. She ordered the family to not call him Chuck. They called him Chuck. Teachers and bus drivers called him Keith. His mother, when peeved, might have called him, “Keith Charles Wakefield.” Every kid knows we’re given middle names so we know when our mothers are unhappy with us. Back to Bone Lake. Charlie caught a silver muskie the size of a Russian submarine there. The tagged fish was the second oldest muskie ever caught in Wisconsin. He got an impressive letter from the DNR and was asked to run for governor. I may have imagined the possible gubernatorial run, but he’d have made a good guvnuh.

The youngest of his family, he claimed he was married before he learned there were parts to a chicken other than the neck. Despite that, Charlie was an excellent cook.

I recall being brokenhearted at a prehistoric visitation covered in layers of emotional debris and concerns about whether there was enough life insurance. My mother told me to remember the good times and that it was OK to laugh.

I keep Mom’s advice in my back pocket. Life is full of holes. We tell stories and we laugh to help plug those holes and lift heavy hearts. Losing a neighbor, classmate, busmate, roommate and friend leaves a big hole.

It’s difficult to find comforting words. Charlie was an epically fine storyteller and he’d have had the perfect thing to say about his passing. Something like, “It was time to throw a tent over that circus.”

We’d be laughing long after the tears had dried.

Nature notes

A superstition maintains that saying “rabbit rabbit” aloud before saying anything else on the first day of the month brings a month of good luck. The beloved Gilda Radner said “bunny, bunny” to ensure laughter, love and peace. FDR said “rabbits.” If you forget to say “rabbit, rabbit” the first thing, say “tibbar, tibbar”—”rabbit” backward. Warranty available for purchase.

The mating season for fox squirrels is from December to February and June through July, eastern gray squirrels from December to February and/or June through August, flying squirrels in early spring and red squirrels in late winter.

Meeting adjourned

I saw this on a T-shirt at a Pizza Ranch: Do good. Be kind. Eat Pizza. Repeat.