Sarah Rogers created this watercolor painting, "Ten Cardinals."
Sarah Rogers created this watercolor painting, "Ten Cardinals."
Randy Cepuch of Reston, Va., told me that some years ago he was going through a rough patch and reached the somewhat rational conclusion that if he took a bike ride and saw at least 10 cardinals while pedaling, it would be a good day. He said most rides fulfilled the quota, but it did seem to be putting pressure on the redbirds to put in an appearance.

Somewhere along the way, a woman he was dating noted that if Randy had a picture of 10 cardinals on his wall, every day would be a good day. So Randy commissioned Sarah Rogers to do a watercolor (titled "Ten Cardinals" or "A Good Day") of 10 cardinals including a kamikaze bird who flew at Randy on the bike path.

Randy added the painting has pretty much worked as hoped in making every day a good day, but he still prefers to see the live birds.

Stop and smell a noisome flower

I worked at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter and visited the greenhouse at the Nobel Hall of Science to see the Amorphophallus titanum. It's a corpse flower named Perry. This plant, a native of Sumatra, reaches heights of eight to 10 feet and last bloomed in 2010. It's known for its distinctive odor of rotting meat.

Echoes From Loafers' Club

"I can't go outside. It's raining."

"You brought an umbrella. Use it."

"That wouldn't help. My umbrella is full of holes."

"Then why did you bring it?"

"I didn't think it would rain."

Driving by the Bruces

I have two wonderful neighbors - both named Bruce - who live across the road from each other. Whenever I pass their driveways, thoughts occur to me, such as: never judge an automobile by the sound of its horn.

I've learned

Buying a toilet plunger is rarely an impulse purchase.

If you want to hear a grandmother cuss like a sailor, go to a casino.

You are never too old to learn something that is incorrect.

That time of the year

Halloween is over and daylight saving time has ended.

I fell back. I devoted the fall-back hour I'd gained over the weekend to reset the endless supply of timepieces that live with me.

It's a bewitching time of the year. Magic tractors turn into fields.

A friend went as a big ceiling fan this Halloween. Yay, ceilings.


One Halloween a trick-or-treater came to my door dressed as "Rocky" of movie fame. He was attired in boxing gloves and satin shorts. Not long after I gave him some goodies, he returned for more.

"Aren't you the same Rocky who left my doorstep 20 minutes ago?" I asked.

"Yes," he replied, "but now I'm the sequel. I'll be back four more times tonight."

I hope that no Halloween candy comes back to haunt you.

Thrilling days of yesteryear

We were fond of telling anyone who asked where we lived or how far we were from the nearest tarred road. I remember a fellow who told everyone that he lived one cigarette from town.

There is such a thing as time travel - it's called a memory. When I became a teenager, I dated in cars lacking seatbelts. I made SOB (Slide Over Baby) corners. They were made sharply.

Church basements

My wife and I attended a soup and pie supper at Concordia Lutheran Church. It might be the Concordia Lutheran Church that you are familiar with or it might be a different Concordia Lutheran Church. I love soups and pies and I love church basements. It was nice to be in a church basement for something other than a meal connected to obsequies. After enjoying a delightful repast, I was greeted by an old schoolmate, Mark Sorenson of Wyoming. I hadn't seen Mark for years and it was great seeing him again. Church basements quickly fill stomachs and memories.

Gainfully employed

One in the family has a part-time job at Hy-Vee. Hy-Vee has a longtime advertising slogan, "Where there's a helpful smile in every aisle." Al Weisert, manager of the Hy-Vee store in Albert Lea added, "And a smirk on every clerk."

A confabulation of farmers

My father said if there really was such a thing as reincarnation, he wanted to come back as an Allis-Chalmers, because an Allis-Chalmers never dies.

Someone asked Jerry Heideman of Hartland, "Are you done picking corn?"

Jerry, who is retired, answered, "I finished five years ago."

Jerry told me, "Now I just drive by to see what field they are on."

I've been reading

Bill Bryson's "Made in America," "During the war years, America had just nine television stations in five cities - New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Schenectady - and just 7,000 sets on which to watch the meager programming available. In the autumn of 1944, for instance, on Wednesday and Saturday nights, there was no television at all in America.

"On Thursdays, only CBS was on the air with 15 minutes of news followed by an hour of local programming and a half-hour show called 'Missus Goes A-shopping.' On Sundays, the American viewer could watch DuMont Labs' 'Thrills and Chills' followed by Irwin Shane's 'Television Workshop,' or nothing.

"With the end of the war, American TV was unleashed at last. By 1947 the number of television sets in American homes had soared to 170,000. In that same year, a program called 'Puppet Television Theater' made its debut. A year later it was renamed 'Howdy Doody' and television had its first hit."

Nature lessons

Northern pintails are long, slender ducks with long, narrow wings, earning them the nickname "greyhounds of the air."

Bats beat their wings up to 20 times per second while the bumblebee approaches 200 wing beats per second.

The arctic tern has a pole-to-pole round-trip migration of 44,000 miles. Arctic terns can live 30 years and rack up 1.5 million miles in a lifetime.

A folk name for the pokeberry plant is "inkberry." In 1776, the framers of the American Declaration of Independence used pokeberry juice to draft the document. After it ages, pokeberry ink turns a lovely shade of brown.

A hawk's vision is approximately three times ours.

A study of acorn crops found the populations of white-footed and deer mice increase the year after a bumper crop. The mice attract predators, so raptor numbers increase. Rodents and raptors cause dark-eyed junco nest (on ground) failure due to predation on eggs, nestlings and birds. The number of ticks increases as white-footed mice and deer populations grow. Acorns attract deer.

The turkey got its name because it was confused with guinea fowl, which were imported to Europe from Africa by way of Turkey. The guinea fowl were often called turkey-fowl.

Nature notes

Marion Poellot of Red Wing asked how to distinguish house finches from purple finches. Here are a couple of simple things to look for. The female purple finch has a bold white eyebrow and a dark throat stripe. A purple finch male exhibits extensive red on the head and back.

An owly trip

Please join me for a gathering of readers of Bird Watcher's Digest in Hibbing on Feb. 21-23. We'll head out to Sax-Zim Bog and other area hotspots looking for northern species such as great gray owl, boreal owl, pine grosbeak and spruce grouse. For more information, go to

Meeting adjourned

A little kindness not only goes a long way, it goes the right way.

Thanks for stopping by

"Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain." -Charlie Chaplin

"Wildlife is not only worth our efforts to restore it, but that its restoration is absolutely and vitally essential to the welfare of our citizens." - Jay Norwood "Ding" Darling


© Al Batt 2013