One can see the differences between a gray fox and red fox in these photos. Notice the black ear tips on the red fox.
One can see the differences between a gray fox and red fox in these photos. Notice the black ear tips on the red fox.
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It was the fight between good and evil. Darth Vader battled Luke Skywalker. Suddenly in the middle of the fight, Darth pulled Luke to him and whispered, "I know what you're getting for Christmas."

Luke said, "No, you don't."

"Yes, I do," Darth replied.

This bothered Luke, who screamed, "How could you know?"

Darth took one of those creepy breaths before responding, "I felt your presents."

Web-footed, red-crested lake loon

I watched a duck use its body as a flotation device in a small bit of remaining open water. Ice nearly covered its world.

It was all alone. I wondered if it was lost.

I doubted that it had ever watched "The Andy Griffith Show."

I remembered Barney Fife and Gomer Pyle becoming lost in the woods.

Then they heard a bird call and this conversation ensued.

Barney: Hear that?

Gomer: That's a lake loon and it came from that direction. That's what it was all right, a lake loon. The kind of loons you find at lakes. I wonder where that lake loon's going? He's probably heading for the lake.

Barney: Wait a minute. You know what kind of bird that was?

Gomer: A lake loon.

Barney: Probably a web-footed red-crested lake loon. Now, where would a web-footed red-crested lake loon be heading?

Gomer: Toward the lake!

Barney: Toward the lake. Don't you understand? Instead of just sitting there you got to use all your senses. We just follow that sound and there's a shortcut home.

Nature provides a canvas to be painted by curiosity.

And it saved Barney and Gomer.

Echoes From Loafers' Club

"I got Mom a box of those chocolate-covered cherries."

"That's what I got her, too."

"Oh, oh."

"No worries. I ate all of those I bought for her."

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 always buy more wrapping paper, Christmas cards and Scotch tape than you think you'll need.

I've learned

Anyone who believes a man is equal to a woman has never watched a man wrap a Christmas present.

A pitchfork makes a great Christmas gift because there is no "tine like the present."

My wife likes chocolate-covered chocolate.

'Tis the season

It was windy, but only on one side.

It was just over 75 degrees. Somewhere, but not where I was. There were sounds of windshields being scraped and snow shoveled.

Santa Claus was coming to town, weather permitting.

Despite the weather conditions, if I'd been a bell, I would have been ringing. I'm not a bell, so I was ringing bells for the Salvation Army in a busy store having a sale on jaegerschnitzelmeisterstrudel.

A shopper came into the store in which I rang bells. She was carrying her little boy. The tot, wearing a snowsuit, was sound asleep. She grabbed a shopping cart and placed the lad into it. He remained asleep. A half-hour later, when she wheeled her cart back into the herd of carts, the boy was still asleep. He was surrounded by bags of groceries, but remained slumbering. He had learned the secret to painless shopping.

Another day, it was 12-degrees below zero, yet the wind still managed to blow fiercely. The woman said that the parking lot was far from her workplace. After her long walk in the wind and cold, she had never been happier to get to work.

Give grace to those in long lines and may the temperature fall more slowly than your credit card balance.

Yes, it tis

At a typical Christmas dinner, Mom yells, "Get out of my kitchen!"

The older kids yell at the younger ones, "Stop running! You'll break something!"

Dad yells, "Get out of the way! I can't see the TV!"

The little ones yell, "It's my toy! Give it back!"

All this yelling is why this is known as the Holler Day Season.

Customer comments

Edgar Mitchell, an astronaut and the sixth man to walk on the moon, told me that when he saw Earth from space, he thought it silly to divide it among nations.

Did you know?

According to a Wall Street Journal study, the average amount of time the football is in play during an NFL game is about 11 minutes.

On average, men's noses are about 10 percent larger than women's, according to a University of Iowa study.

Allstate America's Best Drivers Report named Fort Collins, Colo., as "America's Safest Driving City." Washington, D.C., ranked at the bottom of the list.

Only four MLB players played in every game last season -Prince Fielder of Detroit, Billy Butler of Kansas City, Joey Votto of Cincinnati and Hunter Pence of San Francisco.

There are 147 nations that have a leader who is titled "President."

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter pays $265,000 in property taxes on his Tampa, Fla., mansion that includes two three-car garages, yacht docks and lifts, seven bedrooms and nine bathrooms.

According to an article in Scientific American, the human brain has a memory storage capacity of 2.5 petabytes. If the brain were a digital video recorder, that would hold three million hours of TV shows.

Nature notes

"Can birds predict the weather?"

Apparently. Most birds can sense small changes in barometric pressure. If the activity at bird feeders becomes more intense than normal, a storm may be approaching. During storms, a feeder becomes a reliable food source. Birds aren't dependent upon feeders, but the foods offered there might make it easier for birds to weather a storm. Besides, feeding them allows us to see lovely creatures.

Q-and-A

Dean Goette of Blooming Prairie asked why all birds couldn't interbreed like dogs. All breeds of dog belong to the one species, Canis lupus familiaris. The dog is descended from the wolf and the evolution of such widely differing breeds has been heavily influenced by human selection. Conversely, there are about 10,500 species of birds. The difference between a robin and a chickadee is similar to the difference between a salmon and a guppy. Closely related bird species can and do interbreed, producing hybrids, but we won't likely be seeing any gold jays soon (a cross between a goldfinch and a blue jay).

Tom (TJ) Jessen of Madelia wrote, "I just finished reading 'An Account of the Stephen H. Long Expedition from Pittsburg to the Rocky Mountains 1819-1820.' It was one of the first government funded explorations of the west after Lewis and Clark, only this time they sent out real live scientists. On their way down the Canadian River in present-day eastern Oklahoma, they encountered two 'very common' birds, now both extinct (ivory-billed woodpecker and Carolina parakeet). I was absolutely stunned to see the old range map of the Carolina parakeet. Is there documented evidence that they were sighted as far north as southwest Minnesota?" The Carolina parakeet, which likely became extinct in the 1930s, was often called a paroquet or parrot and favored river or swamp habitat. It was reported to be seen in the state once - in Belle Plaine in 1766. Minnesota was not in its summer range, but the Carolina parakeet reportedly had Spirit Lake, Iowa as the northern limit to its range. That's not far from Minnesota and the cocklebur was one of its favorite foods. Minnesota would have provided that in abundance. Were the parakeets in the Gopher State? No one knows.

An addendum

TJ's question above reminds me of the time the minister went into the Fish and Cheeps Pet Shop. The pastor was interested in buying a certain parrot as a Christmas gift.

"Are you sure it doesn't scream, yell or swear?" asked the preacher.

"Oh absolutely. It's a religious parrot," the shop owner assured him. "Do you see those strings on his legs? When you pull the right one, the parrot recites the Lord's Prayer and when you pull on the left, he recites the 23rd Psalm."

"That's wonderful," said the preacher, "but what happens if I pull both strings?"

"I fall off my perch," said the parrot.

Meeting adjourned

"Life is mostly froth and bubble; two things stand like stone; kindness in another's trouble, courage in your own." - Adam Lindsay Gordon

Thanks for stopping by

"He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has." - Epictetus

"You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you're finished, you'll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird. So let's look at the bird and see what it's doing - that's what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something." - Richard P. Feynman

DO GOOD.

© Al Batt 2013