Baby great horned owls play peek-a-boo through the tree trunks. AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWS GROUP
Baby great horned owls play peek-a-boo through the tree trunks. AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWS GROUP
I moved about the supermarket, looking up one aisle and then down the next. I was trying to find things on my list. The store moves things around. It's part of the supermarket's plan to get me to buy things not on my list. It's fiendishly clever. As I looked up and down, the store's manager came to my aid. He could tell I needed help because I was goose necking.

An older fellow bumped into my cart with his cart with a "Whoopsiedaisy! I'm looking for a bottle of dried beef about yay big," he said. "They've changed the store all around."

I knew that and nodded in agreement toward my fellow shopping cart demolition derby contestant.

I compared apples to oranges. I purchased some Pink Lady apples. My favorite apple is the Honeycrisp, but it wasn't available. Johnny Honeycrisp needs to get busy.

"Did you find everything?" The happy cashier asked me.

"Well, not everything. I wasn't looking for everything," I replied.

"Do you have our gas reward card? If you don't have a gas reward card, would you like to apply for one? Would you like to participate in an online survey? Would you want to donate to a charity? Paper or plastic?"

I felt as if I were up a tree without a paddle.

I'd brought my own bag. I'd hoped that would be enough.

A peregrination

I was in Ghent. It's the rolle bolle capital of the world. Rolle bolle is like lawn bowling or horseshoes on wheels. Sort of. It has been compared to bocce ball, bowling, curling, horseshoes and shuffleboard. It's none of those things. It's rolle bolle.

In Boyd, I was informed that Good Time Days is the longest continuous celebration in the United States, covering 109 years. That's reason for celebration.

In Milbank, S.D. I was at the birthplace of American Legion baseball.

It was in Milbank where I was bitten by my first mosquito of the year on May 24. That seemed about right. I didn't celebrate.

Echoes from the Loafers' Club Meeting

I've been thinking.

About what?

Nothing yet.

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: bacon is the candy of meats.

I've learned

Dodge good. Ram bad.

The quality of a mirror diminishes with age.

Once you clean out the belongings of a deceased friend or relative, you see your own stuff in a different way.

Why Ole is still serving detention

I was teaching some writing classes to young folks, working with the future overlords of this planet, when I thought of Ole.

Mrs. Swenson saw that Little Ole was making faces at other kids on the school playground.

Mrs. Swenson decided to gently admonish the child. Smiling sweetly, the veteran teacher said, "Ole, when I was your age, I was told that if I made ugly faces, my face would freeze and I'd look like that for the rest of my life."

Little Ole replied, "Well, Mrs. Swenson, you can't say that you weren't warned."

Poor man's shoes

Tracy Rosenberg of Marvin, S.D., told me that while in Nepal she encountered a young porter with bad shoes. No shoes might have been an improvement. Tracy felt sorry for him and bought him some new shoes. She saw him a few days later. He was wearing his old shoes. She asked about the ones she'd purchased for him. He'd sold them. Nepal is a very poor country. The young man's family needed the money more than he needed new shoes.

Kith and kin

She was my people, part of my tribe. She was good at golf and bowling. I don't know how to do either. She spoke fluent Iowan. I can barely understand it. Each day, I resolve to be a better person. That should be easy, but it's not. Her example inspired me. She enhanced my existence. My cousin Jackie Muller of Whittemore, Iowa, died. I cope with her loss by missing her dearly.

An education of owls

Kelly Preheim of Armour, S.D., is a kindergarten teacher and a birder. Kelly may have been spending a lot of time talking to her kindergarten class about birds. When she asked her students if they could name the five vowels, one boy answered, "Great horned owl, barred owl, screech owl..."

Nature by the yard

A bee buzzed by me on a late May Day. It wasn't a bumblebee. I find bumblebees on flowers and pet them. Maybe you shouldn't. They don't seem bothered by it. The bee that flew past was a honeybee, a definite May bee.

I followed it with my eyes to the bird feeders festooned with feathered creatures. I heard two red-headed woodpeckers doing "churr" calls. Sometimes called a "flag bird," the red-headed woodpecker was the "spark bird," the bird that initiates a person's interest in birds, of the legendary ornithologist Alexander Wilson in the 1700s.

I watched the woodpecker pair chase one another through the yard. I used the five senses I have to enjoy their presence, plus a couple of other senses that I'd borrowed. I thought of Betty Smith's quote, "Look at everything as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time. Then your time on earth will be filled with glory."

Nature lessons

I am thankful that the Pilgrims opted for the turkey instead of the opossum. Otherwise, we'd be stuffing opossums every Thanksgiving. The opossum got its name from Captain John Smith of the Jamestown colony in Virginia in the 1600s. The name is derived from aposoum, an Algonquian word meaning "white beast."

In 1995, an Argentine biologist banded red knots in Tierra del Fuego. One was labeled B95. Each year, B95 makes a roundtrip of 18,000 miles from Hudson Bay in the Canadian Arctic to the tip of South America. Eighteen years later, he was still being spotted along his migration route. The average distance to the moon is 238,857 miles. This 4-ounce shorebird had flown at least 324,000 miles in his life. That equals a flight to the moon and a good start back.

The Waterford, Wis., Village Board voted to partially close a street to help frogs safely cross the road.

Did you know?

About ten percent of people spell "dilemma" as "dilemna."

Kellogg's revealed that all the colors of Fruit Loops taste the same. What next? Captain Crunch admits that he never served in the military?

Nature notes

"Why do birds stand on one leg?" Tucking a leg against the body prevents heat loss. Birds stand on one leg in warm weather, too, so thermoregulation isn't the only function. It gives the leg muscles a rest, plus it looks cool.


"What kind of a plant is a ramp?" Ramps are wild leeks, pungent members of the lily family. They form dense stands in rich damp forest soils. If you find trillium, bloodroot or mayapple, it's an area where you'd expect to find wild leeks. They grow rapidly for a short time in the spring.

Leeks were once considered a tonic after months of cold winter weather without fresh vegetables. They are an excellent source of vitamin C. I visited West Virginia and folks told me that they were excited about feasting on the ramps. As a boy, I happily slapped a blade from a wild leek onto a hotdog. The odor lingered on my breath for days. That was OK, as it kept the girls away. As I grew older, I quit eating wild leeks because they kept the girls away. They might be a natural form of birth control. If a man eats enough wild leeks, no woman would come near him.

Joyce Street wrote, "What do you call a batch of grackles? I know it's a 'murder' of crows, 'bevy' of quail and 'flock' of turkeys. Is there some special designation for grackles? A 'strut' would seem appropriate." A flock is most common. The only other thing that I have heard a group of grackles being called is a "plague."

Donna Swenson of Waseca asked when mallards start flying. A mallard hen lays one egg per day and produces between one and 14 eggs. She incubates the eggs for about 26 to 28 days. She leads her brood to a wetland within 24 hours of hatching and stays with them until they are able to fly at about eight weeks of age.

Jeanie Siewert of Albert Lea asked at what point in the year could one safely live-trap raccoons without worrying that their young might be left orphans. The mating season is February to March and there is a 63-day gestation period. Once they reach four to six months of age, raccoons live on their own.

Thanks for stopping by

"Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines." - John Benfield.

"Few things in the world are more powerful than a positive push. A smile. A world of optimism and hope. A 'you can do it' when things are tough." - Richard M. DeVos.

Meeting adjourned

One of the most difficult things to give away is kindness, it returns to you.


© Al Batt 2014