Winter has not yet worn out its welcome.
Winter has not yet worn out its welcome.


There are prints of darkness in my yard. Signs of primaveral animals that moved about during the night. Spring unrolls slowly. Spring is a good book, but the first few pages can be difficult to get through. Despite that, many birds are operating at "beak performance."

I was supposed to spend the last day of the season in the classroom, but Old Man Winter intervened and I was left with a snow day. I decided to spend it catching up on that work that I'll never catch up on. We all have that kind of work.

Working in my office at a time when snow had not yet given way to immeasurable birdsong, my eyes moved constantly between my tasks and the brisk activity at the bird feeders.

Red, gray and fox squirrels visited what they considered to be squirrel feeders. After trying in vain to count the redpolls filling my yard and watching starlings feed easily at a suet feeder that was supposed to stymie them, I needed to take the mail to the mailbox. On my walk down the driveway, I encountered two gray partridges. Snow days rock.

Folklore maintains that a wind northeast or north at noon of the vernal equinox, no fine weather before midsummer. If westerly or southwesterly, fine weather till midsummer. The wind at noon on the first day of spring was from the northwest in my yard.

The weather remains anyone's guess.

Echoes from the Loafers' Club Meeting

"What time is it?"

"It's 10:10."

"Oh. Thank you. Thank you."

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: if I start each morning on the right foot, the muscles in my left foot might atrophy.

I've learned

A hangnail is a coat hook.

If you say "gullible" slowly, it sounds like "refrigerator."

I once found it incredible that I had a fax machine. Now I find it incredible that I still have a fax machine.

Have you ever wondered?

Many people have a lucky number. How many have a lucky word?

Why is comparing apples and oranges considered fruitless?

Why isn't there bacon-flavored floss?

Getting an allowance from a grandson

I stepped outside to talk on the phone. I went outdoors in the hopes that my hot air might melt some of the snow.

My birthday was one day and a grandson's the next. He turned 4 on March 17, St. Patrick's Day. I watched as he enjoyed his gifts. I battled him in a spirited game of Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots. Some toys never go away. I suffered defeat after defeat.

Taking a break from my trouncing, I watched as my grandson opened an envelope containing a birthday card from his great-grandmother. Inside the card was a $10 bill. Crosby gave me the money with a "Here, Grandpa."

I've trained him well.

Singing the praises of small schools

We watched NRHEG play Minneapolis Washburn in the girls basketball state tournament. My wife claimed the game unfair. The Minnesota State High School League uses enrollment numbers to set tournament classes. They measured NRHEG as having slightly over 260 and Washburn well over 700. The MSHSL uses a formula that adjusts the actual figures, but no matter, Washburn dwarfed NRHEG in both height and population.

My wife need not have fretted. NRHEG emerged victorious.

A fellow of my acquaintance graduated during the last year of a tiny school's existence. There were three in his class. At the graduation ceremonies, the salutatorian spoke. Then the valedictorian talked. This fellow remained seated and quiet. Everyone knew his academic standing in the class. Last.

Since that day, he has told everyone he thinks should know that he graduated third in his class.

Had he not gone to a small school, such an achievement wouldn't have been possible.

Those thrilling days of yesteryear

I was one of those little kids. You know the kind. To get my busy mother's attention, I whined endlessly, "Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom..."

Mom took as much as she could stand before saying, "What do you want?"

By then, I'd forgotten what I wanted.

The economy

Businesses have had to tighten their belts. A friend manages a store that sells clothing. He confronted an employee because the young man was wearing sagging trousers that made it difficult to work. The constant hitching of pants made it hard to maintain momentum as he walked like a tot wearing an older sibling's hand-me-down clothes.

Styles come and go. The young man was warned that if he didn't pull his pants up, he'd be going. He acted quickly. He stole a belt from his employer.

He was caught easily, as his pants were still riding low enough to make running impossible.

Customer comments

Pam Grunzke of Waseca told me that when she loses an eyelash, she places it on her palm, makes a wish, and blows the eyelash away.

I looked at the calendar on the wall of my brother-in-law's home near Sheboygan, Wis. It showed December 2011. I brought this to his attention.

He (Reid Nelson) replied, "That's why I've been missing appointments."

Did you know?

A study published in Psychological Science found that people who smile after engaging in stress-inducing tasks showed faster reduction in heart rates.

Abraham Lincoln wasn't the main speaker when he delivered the Gettysburg address. Sen. Edward Everett, considered the greatest speaker at the time, was the main attraction.

A sleep researcher at the University of California-Riverside found that a 60- to 90-minute nap improved memory test results as fully as did eight hours of sleep.

Q-and-A

Karen Wright of Mankato asked if squirrels get rabies.

Any warm-blooded mammal can contract rabies, but the primary carriers in North America are raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes. Squirrels, chipmunks, rats, mice, rabbits and hares rarely get rabies. Squirrels may suffer from a fatal roundworm brain parasite, which causes signs that resemble rabies.

Opossums are resistant to rabies. Hissing, drooling and swaying are part of their bluff routine. They play possum. It's intended to discourage predators.

Some scientists believe that small animals aren't seen displaying rabid characteristics because they are likely to die from the trauma of a bite from a rabid animal. Most authorities claim that no transmission of rabies to a human from a squirrel has ever been reported.

Roger Batt of Algona asked, "Can birds smell?"

The apparatus for detecting odors is present in the nasal passages of all birds. All birds react to smell. Some are better at it than others. Turkey vultures, storm petrels, albatrosses and kiwi are some of the species at the top of the smelling class.

Shearwaters and fulmars are attracted to the smell of fish oils.

Turkey vultures are believed to use their sense of smell to locate carrion.

Kiwis, flightless birds from New Zealand, appear to sniff out earthworms.

The great horned owl that eats skunks might be at the bottom of the class of sniffers.

Robins are believed to be able to smell worms, goslings use their olfactory sense to find food, and starlings employ a sense of smell to find aromatic green nesting material.

Even with the ability to detect odors, a mother bird will accept a baby back after it has been touched by a human. After all, she's a mother.

Studies have shown that some birds use a sense of smell to navigate, search for food and to distinguish individuals.

BBRP

It will be my pleasure to speak at the Bluebird Recovery Program Expo taking place at the Middle School in Northfield on April 13. The Expo is a pleasing way to learn about bluebirds and other birds. Please visit http://bbrp.org/ or contact Jenean Mortenson at jmmclm@localnet.com for more information.

Meeting adjourned

Say "hello" to someone you like for me. We have you in common. Be kind.

Thanks for stopping by

"Whether you give it or receive it, forgiveness is music to the soul." - Kinza Christenson

"A flower is an educated weed." - Luther Burbank

DO GOOD.

©Al Batt 2013