The sign said, "Please do not feed the employees."

Another claimed that the mashed potatoes came with a lifetime guarantee.

I ordered a dish carrying the restaurant owner's name. I figured if he was willing to put his name on it, it must be good.

A tablemate complained about everything. He's a "moan about town." It doesn't do much good to complain. People either don't care to hear your grievances or they're elated that you have complaints.

Another diner had blood pressure medication in one hand and a saltshaker in the other. He eats one egg a week and plans for days as to how he'd have it prepared. He has a dog that shares his first name. The dog had been named before he obtained it. However, he'd never forgotten its name even once.

My wife and I ate at the Village Inn, the local home of fine dining. We were joined by friends, Rod and Ruth Searle of Waseca, in enjoying a delicious repast. Ruth's sister from Fairfax, Va., joined us. There was work being done on the water lines in the city, so the friendly waitress informed us that the water was going to be turned off and if anyone needed to use the restroom, they'd better hurry. Our new friend from Virginia hustled to the restroom.

As she rushed past, Larry Nelson, owner of L & D Ag, he said, "Welcome to Hartland."

Echoes from Loafers' Club

"My teacher told us that everything has a purpose."

"What do we get from skunks?"

"As far away as possible."

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: "detour" means, "enjoy the scenery."

I've learned

Cellphones should charge as we walk.

If you can't say anything nice about someone, mumble.

No garden has only flowers.

Hartland phone booth

The phone booth in Hartland was important. Big business deals and forbidden meetings were arranged without family members overhearing. When I was a boy, I called the phone booth the "statue." That was because when locals called someone on it, they'd say, "Hello. Statue?"

We had only one telephone at home, a giant contraption featuring a rotary dial, which filled a living room wall. Privacy wasn't a given. Family members were forced to listen to one side of a conversation just as anyone within hearing of a cellphone user is forced to today.

If I talked too long on our home phone, my mother handed me a couple of saltine crackers. It's hard to talk when eating those crackers. When the crackers were passed out, it was time to shut up and hang up.

Those thrilling days of yesteryear

My uncle said, "The Beatles," and shook his head forlornly.

I'm sure he'd have liked to have said more about the Fab Four, but he was in mixed company. For you see, my uncle was a tonsorial artist, a barber.

"There are only three times in a woman's life when she gets her name in the newspaper," said a woman, waiting for a teenage son to have his locks shorn. "Once when she is born, once when she gets married, and once when she dies. And she can read only one of them."

My neighbor

Old Man McGinty believes that failing memory is nature's way of making sure that we get enough exercise as we age. He leaves the house. Then walks back in to get something he'd forgotten. He repeats this several times before actually leaving.

He filled his car with gas. The pump told him to insert his credit card and then remove it quickly. He tried a few times without success. The screen on the gas pump flashed, "Please pay inside. You are old."

I asked Old Man McGinty, the youngest Old Man McGinty ever, if he wanted to join me at a function on a Saturday six months in the future. He said that he was busy that day. He hadn't consulted a calendar, so I asked him what he had going on that day.

"A funeral," he replied.

"A funeral?" I asked, "How can you know that so far in advance?"

"Simple," said Old Man McGinty, "When you're my age, you attend a funeral every Saturday.

Nature by the yard

It was a postcard of a day. A Chamber of Commerce morning. Unless you had hay fever. Only one thing to do then. When life gives you ragweed, sneeze.

I walked outside. The best thing for the inside of a man is the outside.

A squirrel used its clever paws to weigh a walnut. It searched for one best suited for eating.

A dole of mourning doves took flight, their wings whistling, as a chipmunk made a "chuck" sound nearby. A chipmunk giving its stump speech.

Warblers flitted through the leaves of trees, looking like feathered racecars.

I watched a goldfinch youngster fly into the platform-style sunflower feeder. It perched there quietly until a pair of adults flew in to the feeder. They were likely the parents, but I couldn't be sure. When the parents arrived, the goldfinch began to make begging calls and flutter its wings. They fed it and then flew away. It remained at its station. Before long, the fledgling began to make begging sounds and I knew that his parents were coming back.

I enjoyed seeing and hearing what the day had to offer. I wondered about nature, but I did not question its worth.

It is difficult to question the value of things I cannot explain.

A peregrination

I was housed in a lovely residence. There was a bear in the neighborhood, but I wasn't worried. There were screens on the windows.

Leaving that domicile, I drove long roads. Wind turbines worked with the sun to stretch fingers of shadows across the highways.

I stopped at Parkersburg, Iowa, while on my way to a speaking engagement. I visited the city's impressive veterans' memorial. A helicopter is permanently mounted there. A starling nested in that aircraft. It couldn't be blamed.

The roads were busy with turkey vultures. The big birds were doing their jobs as nature's undertakers. They were removing dead things from the roads. They were doing it in a method that would be difficult for most of us. They were eating the carcasses. To a turkey vulture eating roadkill, there is no such thing as fast food. If it were fast, it wouldn't be food.

Nature lessons

A cackling goose looks like a Canada goose, but is about the size of a mallard.

Contrary to popular belief, vultures like their food as fresh as possible.

Folklore has it that the weather on the Ember Days foretells the weather for three successive months. Wednesday, Sept. 18, forecasts the weather for October. Friday, Sept. 20, for November and Saturday, Sept. 21, for December.

The smallest breeding bird in North America is the calliope hummingbird.

Albert Lea Audubon

Pete Rush will speak on "The Impact of Insects on Resources and How That Affects Birds" on Tuesday, Oct. 1, at 7 p.m. at Christ Episcopal Church in Albert Lea. Everyone is welcome.

Nature notes

A yellow jacket nest can be hidden inside a dense bush, alongside a stump, buried in the ground with only a small, hard-to-see entrance hole, or located inside a wall or ceiling void of a building. These wasps commonly build nests in rodent burrows.

Meeting adjourned

When it comes to being kind, avoid moderation.

Thanks for stopping by

"The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof." -Barbara Kingsolver

"We must live simply so others may simply live." - Ed Begley, Jr.


© Al Batt 2013