Al Batt: Coming home from telling stories

Published 6:13 pm Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Echoes from the Loafers’ Club Meeting

Could I get a cheeseburger without the cheese?

Why don’t you just order a hamburger?

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I don’t like hamburgers.

Driving by Bruce’s drive

I have a wonderful neighbor named Bruce. Whenever I pass his drive, thoughts occur to me. I started the day by having breakfast. Great idea. I couldn’t believe I’d thought of it. I walked around an airport terminal. Another step on the journey. People played bumper cars with their wheeled suitcases while their eyes were riveted to device screens. It’s astonishing what those small things can do. I grew up thinking it would be incredible to own a device like a Swiss Army knife.

I couldn’t help but rate the foodstuffs being devoured by fellow travelers. I’m not proud of that, but I didn’t judge the person, just the victuals. There was a lot of “What is that?” I need to keep moving in an airport, otherwise, I feel as if I’m taking up space at the front of a line.

I was headed home from telling stories at a festival in Illinois. At a stop for fuel, I became involved in a lengthy one-sided conversation with a gas pump. It peppered me with questions. “Are you a rewards member? What is your zip code? Would you like a car wash?”

I was in Dixon, which is Ronald Reagan’s hometown and the site of the Petunia Festival and is the Catfish Capital of Illinois. I heard a lot about Rita Crundwell, the town’s former comptroller and owner of 400 show horses. She was trusted, which made the magnitude of her betrayal inconceivable. She misappropriated $54 million from the coffers of a town of 15,380, the largest municipal fraud in US history. In five months, she stole $3.2 million, which was more than the city’s $2.9 million budget for that period. She was released from prison after serving less than 8 1/2 years of a 19-year, 7-month sentence. Why did she do it? It wasn’t because she hadn’t acquired a taste for Marmite or Vegemite. Marmite is a salty and yeasty brown spread that finds its place on toast in the UK. Its advertising campaign acknowledged people either love it or hate it. Vegemite is as Australian as kangaroos. It’s another yeast extract spread, dark reddish-brown and salty. The two taste similar, but Vegemite is saltier and more bitter with a thicker consistency. I’ll stick to peanut butter.

I’ve learned

I saw a deer in a field as I drove down the highway. Fortunately, I’d just seen a lighted sign saying, “Don’t swerve for deer.” I didn’t swerve for that one.

I met an engineer from Texas in Alaska. He wanted to see a big state. He was a tall guy who bumped his head due to his altitude. He explained that the collision happened because he was bald and hair acts as an antenna signaling warnings of oncoming impacts.

A man needed to move a fox, a chicken and a sack of corn across a river. He had a rowboat, which could only carry him and one other thing. If the fox and the chicken were left together, the fox would eat the chicken. If the chicken and the corn were left together, the chicken would eat the corn. How did the man do it? The man and the chicken crossed the river (the fox and corn are safe together) and he left the chicken on the other side and went back across. The man then took the fox across the river, and since he couldn’t leave the fox and chicken together, he brought the chicken back. Since the chicken and corn couldn’t be left together, he left the chicken and took the corn across and left it with the fox. He returned to pick up the chicken and rowed across the river one last time.

Nature notes

I eliminated some common burdock plants. I’ve encountered a kinglet, goldfinch and hummingbird killed after becoming entangled in a burdock. The birds had become caught by the hooked bracts surrounding the flower heads and seed heads. The more a bird struggled, the more ensnared it became. Other small birds reported to have suffered the same fate after seeking insects or seeds include gnatcatchers, nuthatches, chickadees, warblers and siskins.

Trees that provide nuts and berries for food, and feed caterpillars are great for birds. Doug Tallamy, a professor at the University of Delaware, discovered that oaks support 557 caterpillar species, black cherry supports 456 species, and maples support up to 297 species. Tallamy said, “No insects, no baby birds.”

Meeting adjourned

It’s not them or us. It’s them and us. Be kind.