The exoskeleton of a cicada is a fun discovery. AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
The exoskeleton of a cicada is a fun discovery. AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER

It was so cloudy, I couldn’t have given a bottle of suntan lotion away. I knew it was going to rain. Ants carried umbrellas. Butterflies formed rowing teams. Chipmunks wore lifejackets.

I played a spirited game of 20 questions with a gas pump. I pushed this button and that button. Once, I pushed the wrong button and had to start over. I wasn’t unhappy about that. My misbehaving forefinger made me happy that I hadn’t become a surgeon.

At the next pump was a young man wearing a T-shirt reading, "Will be quiet for $100. Will be awesome for free." Some folks can talk for an hour on any subject. He was one of those who could talk for an hour without any subject. He said he’d been named employee of the year at his workplace. He added, "I work for my grandma."

Beloved sweet corn

Our house looks lived in. The burners on the stove all work (that hasn’t always been the case), but the toilet handle needs jiggling.

Our abode is a smile in siding and shingles. Things aren't perfect, but we get sweet corn.

Is the first sweet corn of the summer really that good or is it because we want it to be that good? Or is it a delectability enhanced by anticipation?

Working at the fair

I nodded at people walking by. I bobbed my head. I was pretending it was Al Batt bobble head night at the fair.

I struggled to get a signal good enough to return calls on my cellphone. I may have moaned and groaned.  

"You don't own one, do you?" I asked the man sitting nearby, as I nodded or bobbed towards my cellphone.

The man smiled and replied, "No, but seeing how much enjoyment it brings you, I'm going to get one as soon as possible."

Adjusting the rearview mirror on an old address

I took drivers’ training from Mr. Lillesve. He stressed the importance of adjusting the rearview mirror. All good driving instructors did that. I paid attention. Whenever anything goes wrong with my car — stuck in snow, won't start, etc. — I adjust the rearview mirror.

I received a letter improperly addressed. It carried a post office sticker telling me that I was fortunate the letter had been delivered. It was my old address, the one I’d had before the county moved me from Rural Route 1 to a 911 address that’s supposed to make it easier for others to find me whether I want to be found or not. I called the outfit that sent the letter. I’d requested a change of address many times over the years.

"What do I have to do to change the address on my account?" I asked.

"Move," replied the customer service representative.

Echoes from Loafers’ Club

I’d give $5,000 to someone to do all my worrying for me.

I'll do it. Where's my $5,000?

That's your first worry.

I’ve learned

It's always dullest before the yawn.

To forgive what I can't forget and to forget what I can't forgive.

Cheerful people have fewer colds. The surly bird catches the germ.

The cafe chronicles

He was a roll model down at the bakery and claimed to be the valedictorian of his class at the school of hard knocks.

He said, "I’ve finally discovered what’s wrong with my brain. On the left side, there is nothing right, and on the right side, there is nothing left."

I enjoyed my visit. He offered the discernment of age mixed with the boldness of a boy. He had no plans for the day other than being there.

An episode from a marriage

My wife and I have a strange and wonderful marriage. I'm strange and she's wonderful.

I told her that there had been an earthquake during the night. It had given me quite a fright.

The same earthquake returned the next night. It turned out to be a young guy driving by in a Pontiac Grand Am with the windows rolled down and the bass of its radio turned way up.

Did you know?

During its five seasons, "The Brady Bunch" received marginal ratings, reaching number 34 in Nielsen ratings at its peak.

Nature notes

Leaves of three, let it be. Leaves of five, let it thrive. Poison ivy has three leaves, Virginia creeper five.


The supply of sunsets isn’t infinite.

It’s a good idea to witness wonder whenever possible.

As the sun bid adieu, I roamed through the gloaming (twilight or dusk).

There was enough light for me to see a ravenous monarch butterfly caterpillar devouring a milkweed leaf. Beginning in late summer and into early fall, monarchs emerging from chrysalises are behaviorally different from earlier generations. They aren’t mating or laying eggs. They focus on fattening up for long migrations to winter habitats — central Mexico for monarchs east of the Rocky Mountains and coastal California for those west. It’s an epic journey that no good travel agent would recommend.


I took a pair of ZEISS Victory SF binoculars for an extended test look. I did so because I wanted to see more. And I did. They were a delight to hold and afforded slick focusing. The high-end binoculars performed well under challenging light conditions. They worked like binoculars should. Putting them to my eyes was like turning a light on in a dark room.

I didn’t need binoculars to see that the DNR building at the State Fair is celebrating its 80th anniversary. About 500,000 people visit the DNR building annually. The building cost $73,000 to build, almost 10 times the net profit of the 1934 State Fair when gate tickets cost 25 cents.

The combined indoor fish aquarium capacity of more than 5,000 gallons of water is the same amount the average family of four uses monthly.

The outdoor fishpond holds 50,000 gallons of water displaying 45 species of native fish. The largest fish exhibited is the lake sturgeon, which exceeds 50 inches.


"When do the first cicadas call?"

In southern Minnesota, I hear their opening announcements in June or July. The average date is around July 4 with the latest just short of the ides of July. The buzzing call is made by males to attract mates. Annual cicadas lay eggs in twigs. The young burrow underground and feed on sap from roots. Incorrectly called locusts, cicadas whine on hot days and let us know it’s summer.

"I saw swallows and dragonflies flying together. What’s the connection?"

Swallows and dragonflies swarm for the same reason — food, the small flying insects that both favor.

"How long do opossums live?"

Opossums have high mortality rates. They are killed by dogs, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, bobcats, eagles, hawks, owls, cars, Clampetts and winter. Opossums rarely live two years in the wild.

"How old are sand hill cranes before they can fly?"

The colts fly at about 10 weeks of age.

"Will feeding safflower seeds discourage squirrels and grackles at feeders?"

Squirrels and grackles aren’t particularly fond of safflower, but it won’t attract as many bird species as sunflower seeds. Cardinals, chickadees, house finches, and doves like safflower seeds.

 "I heard a bird singing the first few notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. What kind was it?"

The song sparrow is a persistent singer whose pleasant song sounds like that. Thoreau described it as, "Maids! Maids! Maids! Hang up your teakettle-kettle-kettle."

"Do feeders become busier when a storm is coming?"

Birds don’t wait for holidays to overeat. Low-pressure brings storms, meaning birds might have difficulty feeding and are forced to hunker down. They stock up just as we do when we run to the supermarket when storms are predicted.

Thanks for stopping by

"We know nothing of tomorrow, our business is to be good and happy today." — Sydney Smith

"Today I have grown taller from walking with the trees." ? Karle Wilson Baker

Meeting adjourned

"Forget injuries; never forget kindness." — Confucius


© Al Batt 2014