An Eastern bluebird takes a rest on a nice summer day.  AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
An Eastern bluebird takes a rest on a nice summer day. AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
A caller from Arizona asked the temperature.

I replied, "It is one below."

"Hmmm," said the caller, "I had heard that it was 20 degrees below zero there."

"Oh, you mean outside."

It was cold enough that the earbuds wore earmuffs. A solar energy spill made the day tolerable. One neighbor never looks at the thermometer because it makes him cold.

"What is the temperature?" I asked.

"It is one below," replied my bride.

"Was it supposed to get that warm?

I drank my orange juice before it got cold and stepped outside to fill the birdfeeders. I walked on the wind-hardened surface of the deep snow. It was firm enough to give me hope. I took three steps. I smiled at my good fortune. I should not have. I broke through the crust. As I struggled to free myself from hip-deep snow, I wished I had been wearing socks.

Winter is when even those of us who are so dense that light bends around us get the drift. We need an extra season just to figure out the other four.

Bogus benevolence

A telemarketer called. I am on that "do not call" list, but nonprofits and politicians are exempt from adhering to its restraints.

He gave his spiel. While he went on, I investigated the "charity" he represented. It was one of those "sound alike" outfits. Its name sounded like that of a reputable charity. A minuscule percentage of the funds raised go to the people they were purported to go to.

I asked him if he would be willing to call his mother and ask her to donate.

There was a long pause before he hung up on me.

My neighbor

He married a girl from the next town over.

In his family, there was no separation of love and hotdish, but his wife was different.

She wanted things to be better.

He just wanted things to not get any worse.

She told her sister, "If a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, my husband is a threat to the world."

After constant encouragement, he agreed to accompany her to a seminar titled, "Thoughts on Modeling the Monetary Transmission Mechanism" at the university.

On the drive home, he admitted, "That changed the way I think about the things I never think about."

Groundhog Day in retrospect

Reverend Cherie Daniel of Freeborn said she saw a photo of a wolf with this caption, "The groundhog said six more weeks of winter, so I ate him."

Lee Peterson of Freeborn advised that each Groundhog Day tells us that we will have either six weeks or a month and a half more of winter.

Looking for Hedwig

I spotted a snowy owl on the snow-covered ground not far from my home. It had hunkered down near a snow-filled dredge ditch. It was getting plenty of fresh air. A spotting scope was needed for my eyes to reach this handsome, mysterious visitor from the tundra. I was happy to see the bird and hoped that voles, the potato chips of the prairie, were keeping it well-fed. Cars are one of the biggest dangers to a snowy owl. They do not understand cars and because of that, may be hit by speeding automobiles.

On a winter day that was kind enough not to have whiteout conditions, I was thrilled that there was some white out there for me to see.

Echoes from the Loafers' Club Meeting

Are you going to eat that?

Yes. Why?

Well, you have been putting on a little weight.

You should talk.

At least I never talk with my mouth full.

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 it can take a long time to hurry.

The news from Hartland

Mabel Johnson makes the best Mabel syrup in town.

Prints Charming Company produces a relief map to the city's restrooms.

Woman quits job at post office, claiming it was a mail-dominated enterprise.

Nature notes

Rich Chapman of Albert Lea asked if raccoons hibernate. They don't. They go into what is called torpor, winter sleep, partial hibernation, or dormancy. They sleep for long periods, waking occasionally. Mating occurs in February and March and raccoons can be seen during the day then. Typically, if the temperature falls below 27 degrees, they retreat to their dens, usually located in hollow logs and trees.

Q-and-A

"Why are bluebirds blue?"

John Burroughs wrote, "When Nature made the bluebird she wished to propitiate both the sky and the earth, so she gave him the color of the one on his back and the hue of the other on his breast." Bluebirds do not have any blue pigment in their feathers. It is a color produced by the structure.

When light hits the feathers, tiny air pockets and melanin pigment crystals in each feather scatter blue light and absorb the other wavelengths. This scattering process is also what makes the sky appear blue. The more colorful male bluebirds are better able to secure nesting boxes and mate earlier. Females may look to color as a determination of a male's successful functioning in the world. So when a male bluebird is feeling blue, he is happy. Is he a bluebird of happiness? He certainly is for me whenever I see one.

"I have a mouse in my house. What kind is it?"

It is likely one of three species. The house mouse originated in the Mediterranean to China, but spread throughout the world in the company of man and lives as a human commensal. Adults range in total size from five to eight inches. They tend to have large ears, small eyes and a pointed nose. A house mouse's tail can be three to four inches long, as long as its head and body combined. Back, feet and belly are all the same color in house mice, usually light brown, but they can be nearly black.

The next two species have big eyes and large ears. Because of this, many people call them "cute." The deer mouse, which some people refer to as the field mouse, adult ranges in size from six to eight inches, including the tail. The long bi-colored tail is mostly hairless or very short-haired. The deer mouse has sandy brown fur on the head and back, yellowish on the flanks and white on the belly and feet. There is usually a small streak of yellow on the chest.

The white-footed mouse is most common in homes located near forests, brush or ag lands. It is relatively small with a combined head and body measurement of just 3.5 to four inches. Its feet and belly are white. The rest of the body and the tail are grayish to reddish-brown. The separation of colors on the tail are less distinctive than that of the deer mouse.

Customer comments

Mark Sorenson of Hollandale attended a Yankees game when he was a small boy. Mark was seated next to his father and Mickey Mantle was at bat. Mickey took a mighty swing and popped a foul ball high into the air. Mark tried to find the ball, but had no luck. As he stared into the sky, his father grabbed him. The foul ball struck the spot where Mark had been. It was a near brush with fame - and pain.

John Beal of Faribault said that since he retired, every night is Friday night and every day is Saturday.

Steve Ausen of Hartland visited Uganda and was amazed at the bicycle usage there. They transported everything via bicycle. Steve watched a procession of bikes go by and commented that they carried everything except the kitchen sink. Ten minutes after saying that, a man holding a kitchen sink pedaled by.

Thanks for stopping by

"There comes a time in your life when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Forget the bad and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right, pray for the ones who do not. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living." - Someone said

"I caught a glimpse of happiness and saw it was a bird on a branch, fixing to take wing." - Richard Peck

Meeting adjourned

Kindness is a boomerang. It returns.

© Al Batt 2014