Darcy Sime of Alden shares this photo which shows the colorful beauty of a starling.
Darcy Sime of Alden shares this photo which shows the colorful beauty of a starling.
The cat, the shyer of the two, was at her post at my office window. She is capable of staring through the glass for long periods. Feeders busy with birds are entertainment as are visits by neighboring dogs and cats. A wild animal staggering through the yard is excitement incarnate.

This day, an accipiter, a bird-eating hawk, was hunting the yard and songbirds were hiding. Even though the view from her window might have been dull, the cat maintained her vigil.

Then, as I looked up from my book, I saw a squirrel jump from the roof, clipping a feeder on its way down.

Hokey smoke!

The cat perked up and gave me a look that said, "That's why I look out this window."

Echoes from the Loafers' Club Meeting

"I kept getting lost, so I bought a GPS."

"Did that help?"

"No, I lost the GPS."

I've learned

Age isn't just a number. It's a word.

If you're having second thoughts, you're two ahead of most of us.

Most one-horse towns don't have any.

The news from Hartland

Podiatrist, William the Corncurer, claims that time wounds all heels.

Upchuck and Ralph's Bakery says to eat cake because it's somebody's birthday somewhere.

Conan the librarian explains that books filled with blank pages are out of print.

Ask Al

"What is your favorite rock group?" Mount Rushmore.

"Do you sleep in your socks?" No, the bed is more comfortable.

"Why do parents wash their children's mouths out with soap?" They're too cheap to buy toothpaste.

Ferry tales

I was on a ferry leaving Juneau, Alaska, on a voyage to Haines. Another traveler smiled at the mountains and told me that he'd moved to Alaska from the United States.

Glimpses of birds riding the wind, whales and sea lions delighted me. The vastness of Alaska was apparent.

On a cold, wintry day in our largest state, I considered the vastness of losses suffered by the Minnesota Twins last season. Their record was 66-96. They should maintain their wins and losses in Roman numerals. A record of LXVI-XCVI sounds better.


February comes in like January and leaves like March. A groundhog peeks out of his burrow and sees a mere shadow of his former self or refuses to see what he has become. If he sees his shadow, we get six more weeks of winter. If the woodchuck doesn't see his shadow, spring begins in six weeks.

I stopped at a cemetery. The snow crunched under my shoes. A loud car drove by. If the road has a thick layer of fresh snow, sound waves are absorbed at the surface. That tends to muffle traffic noises. The snow's surface smoothens and hardens with age and wind's influence. Then the surface reflects sound waves, making them clearer and travel farther. When I stepped on the snow, the downward pressure snapped the bonds between snow crystals. The crystals rubbed against others, creating brief oscillations, which produced sound. If the snow isn't as cold, the snow grains yield too easily because the bonds are weaker. I was taught that if it's colder than about 14 degrees, snow crunches. If it's warmer, it usually doesn't. I crunched my way to a gravesite, a place where the past and the present meet. I shed a tear. That's not easy for a man who grew up in a time in which men cried only in the rain.

Another fellow was at the cemetery as I paid my respects. He pointed at his older brother's gravestone and said, "He had his kick at the can."

I guess that's all that February wants.


There are absolutes. Things that I know are true. Such as, always trust what those on high-fiber diets say. They don't have the time to lie. Another is that when I was a boy and used the word "ain't," the weight of the word world fell upon me. They accused me of using a word that didn't exist. Girl jump-ropers chanted, "Don't say ain't, your mother will faint, your father will step in a bucket of paint, because there ain't no such word as ain't."

A friend, whenever chastised for saying "ain't," replied, "Because I don't say it, don't mean I ain't thinking it."

He had no answer when his mother told him that bad words made his breath smell.

Did you know?

An R.L. Polk study of the auto industry found that 48 percent of people buy cars of the same brand they had been driving. The brands with the most loyal customers were Ford with 61.2 percent repeat buyers, Mercedes-Benz (57.7) and Toyota (54.4).

Each day, we breathe about 23,040 times and move 438 cubic feet of air. It takes about five seconds to breathe - two seconds to inhale and three seconds to exhale.

Nature lessons

A peer-reviewed study authored by scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that bird and mammal mortality caused by outdoor cats is much higher than had been reported, with annual bird mortality now estimated to be 1.4 to 3.7 billion and mammal mortality likely 6.9 to 20.7 billion individuals.

Marysville, Kansas, bills itself as "Home of the Black Squirrels." The "Black Squirrel Song" is the city's official anthem: "Lives in the city park, runs all over town. The coal black squirrel will be our pride and joy many more years to come!" The black squirrels (and city mascots) have been there since the 1920s, when historians say they escaped from a traveling circus. The black squirrel is a melanistic subgroup of the eastern grey squirrel.

Wisdom, a Laysan albatross that is the world's oldest known wild bird at age 62, has hatched a chick at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.

Nature notes

"What kind of squirrel is a black squirrel?" It's a melanistic version of the eastern gray squirrel. Black squirrels can exist wherever grey squirrels live. Melanism is an undue development of dark-colored pigment. Grey pairs may produce black offspring. Black squirrels appear to have been dominant throughout North America prior to the arrival of Europeans, since the dark color helped them hide in dense forests that tended to be shaded. Hunting and deforestation led to biological advantages for grey squirrels. Black squirrels have an increased cold tolerance because they lose less heat than grey ones.

Thanks for stopping by

"Nature arms each man with some faculty which enables him to do easily some feat impossible to any other." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"A well-developed sense of humor is the pole that adds balance to your steps as you walk the tightrope of life." - William A. Ward


©Al Batt 2013