Darcy Sime of Alden shares this photo of a red-necked grebe.
Darcy Sime of Alden shares this photo of a red-necked grebe.
Native Americans hung gourds for purple martins before Europeans arrived in North America.

The first returning purple martins are often called scouts, but aren't checking things out for a group. They are older birds returning to areas where they have nested before.

Millie Westland of Hayward told me the first purple martins returned to her place on April 11. Last year, they came back on April 6.

Randy Frederickson of Willmar said that a purple martin showed up on April 14. He fed him crickets. Eight inches of snow fell and the bird was snowed in, as the snow on the porches completely covered the holes of the martin house.

The snake trail

My wife and I were walking a trail near Weslaco, Texas, when we spotted a Texas indigo snake. The blue-black snake stretched the width of the trail, so it must have been six feet long. It was a beauty. Some grow even longer, up to eight feet.

Indigos eat almost anything they could swallow, including adult rattlesnakes.

My wife likes snakes - to stay the heck away from her. Ophidiophobia is the fear of snakes. It's a common ailment. One that I'm thankful I don't have.

Oklahoma birds

I spoke at the Clear Lake Public Library. I love libraries. They are "Imagination & Information, Incorporated." A woman there told me that during her visit to Oklahoma, she asked a landowner what kind of birds he had there.

The man replied, "We have red birds, blue birds, yellow birds, and wire birds."

The wire birds were scissor-tailed flycatchers.

Happy trails

Steve Eno of Raymond, Neb., loves bluebirds and because of the good things he's done on behalf of bluebirds, I'm sure the bluebirds love Steve Eno.

Steve runs an extensive bluebird trail and encourages and educates others to run bluebird trails. He works with Bluebirds Across Nebraska to make the world a better place for bluebirds.

He walked Connie Conover of Lincoln down a trail, checking bluebird boxes, hoping Connie might start his own bluebird trail. Connie didn't enjoy walking the trail. It wasn't his thing. He asked if there was anything else he could do to help bluebirds. Steve told him there was.

Connie Conover never fledged a single bluebird, but he built over 26,000 bluebird nest boxes before he shuffled off this mortal coil.

Echoes from Loafers' Club

Here's a photo of the chicken coop I built.

Why does your chicken coop have two doors?

Because if it had four, it'd be a chicken sedan.

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: flowers become photogenic no matter where they are planted.

I wonder

Do penguins worry about identity theft?

Were sports team mascots born with big heads?

Do turtles lead "sheltered" lives?

The café chronicles

He didn't give advice. He gave warnings. He was a VHS and cassette tape kind of guy. He believed a basketball team should lose a point for each free throw missed. He allowed that he might have watched too much football last season just as his wife, what's-her-name, thought. He claimed it was better to be a fat man in the cemetery than a thin guy in a stew. He grumbled that "amen" is the only part of a prayer that everyone knows. Last year, he went to a big city for a family Easter celebration. He said, "If you have a chance to go there, go somewhere else."

Easter is the time when elders lose fillings while eating Peeps.

I recall Easter dinners at my boyhood home fondly. The secret ingredient to those Easter meals was Mom.

My history

"How many of you would like to go to heaven?" asked my Sunday school teacher.

Everyone raised his or her a-few-years-old hands except me.

I got "The look."

I explained, "I can't go. My mother told me to come right home after Sunday school."

I could see that being a Sunday school teacher wasn't in my future.

I looked through Grandma Batt's eyeglasses one day. Wow! Everything was blurry and distorted. I could see the future through those glasses. I knew I'd be wearing glasses one day.

Hartland history

Marlin (Moon) Schroader and Joe Skophammer are legends around Hartland. Joe owned the local bank, Farmers State Bank, and Moon was a partner in Arlo & Moon's. Arlo & Moon's was a gas station that not only sold gas and tires, but also did auto repairs, dispensed wisdom, and was a meeting place for the village's male elders.

One day the phone rang at Arlo and Moon's. Moon answered it. The caller identified himself as Joe Skophammer and said that he wanted to have the oil changed in his car. For one reason or another, Moon thought that it was one of his buddies playing a prank. They did that.

Moon told the caller that he could change his own blankety-blank oil. There was an uncomfortable silence on the line. It was then that Moon realized it was indeed Joe Skophammer calling.


Keith Porter of Albert Lea told me that the first Burma-Shave signs were between Albert Lea and Clarks Grove in 1925.

Allan Odell had boards cut into 36-inch lengths and lettered. The original signs didn't rhyme. Typically, four consecutive signs read, "Shave the modern way. Fine for the skin. Druggists have it. Burma-Shave." After erecting a dozen sets, orders poured in as people asked druggists about the shaving cream they'd seen mentioned on signs.

Customer comments

Roger Lonning of Albert Lea said the only skill needed to be a Minnesotan is the ability to say, "Uffda" and "You betcha."

Roger was born in Thor, Iowa. He's still Thor about that. Roger said when I visit Iowa, it lowers the state's average IQ. He was right.

Peggy Swenson of Albert Lea told me that Earl Jacobsen of Albert Lea wore a new suit to a funeral. He told all those who commented on his new duds, "Take a good look. The next time I wear this, you'll see only the front."

Joyce Tabor of Askov asked, "If a pig loses its voice, is it disgruntled?"

Diane Boelter of New Richland retired. She asked her doctor if she were getting shorter. Her physician said that as long as her feet touched the ground, she wasn't dwindling.

I bought shoes from the Red Wing Shoe Store in Alden. I favored discounted shoes classified as "seconds" due to minor flaws or irregularities. Joel Stensrud of Alden added that once shoes are worn, they become seconds.

Nature notes

"If I handle a baby bird, will its parents detect my scent and abandon it?"

It's a myth that parent birds abandon young that have been touched by humans. It's safe to return a fallen nestling to its nest or carry a fledgling to a safer place.

Meeting adjourned

Kindness is wisdom.

Thanks for stopping by

"Be grateful for luck. Pay the thunder no mind - listen to the birds. And don't hate nobody." - Eubie Blake

"The more you find out about the world, the more opportunities there are to laugh at it." - Bill Nye


© Al Batt 2014