Some wisdom can be learned from a bumper sticker
Some wisdom can be learned from a bumper sticker

A work van passed me. It advertised "Superior Flopping."

That wasn't the real name. The Superior part was actual, but I made up the Flopping portion. I think the modest people who were around for my boyhood would have found it difficult to name a business Superior anything, unless it was in Superior, Wis. The best they could have come up with would have been "Not Bad Flopping."

Not long after the van superiorly passed me, I spotted some bumper stickers.

"On your mark, get set, go away."

"Sorry for driving so close in front of you."

"I'll bet Jesus would use turn signals."

I read a Wall Street Journal article about a car sporting a bumper sticker reading, "I brake for fish." The story was about the Amphicar, a German import produced from 1962 to 1967. There were about 4,000 built and around 500 survive. I rode in one once. The driver drove it right into a lake. The car was capable of hitting 70 miles per hour on land, but only 7 miles per hour in water. I was floating in the propeller-driven auto when we were passed by a bullhead.

A window unto nature

A window is better than TV. You can see everything out of a window. One of my favorite poems is from W.H. Davies, "What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare? No time to stand beneath the boughs and stare as long as sheep or cows. No time to see, when woods we pass, where squirrels hide their nuts in grass. No time to see, in broad daylight, streams full of stars, like skies at night. No time to turn at beauty's glance, and watch her feet, how they can dance. No time to wait till her mouth can enrich that smile her eyes began. A poor life this if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare."

A poor life this is if we do not spend time gazing through glass. I didn't see them, but I heard crickets singing as if they were searching for Buddy Holly outside my window.

Echoes from Loafers' Club

"I'm headed to Geneva."

"It's a good day for it."

"How far is Geneva?"

"From where?"

"Never mind. Does it matter which road I take?"

"Not to me it doesn't."

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: those who forget the past have a difficult time finding their car in a parking lot.

I've learned

The softer the bread, the harder the butter.

Not to point a finger until I've offered a hand.

If you are holding all the cards, they haven't been dealt yet.

Thrilling days of yesteryear

It was hot. I sat under an oak tree, waiting for the house to cool enough to make sleep possible. A fan whirred in my bedroom. It provided white noise more than anything. I knew it wouldn't be long before I'd be diagramming sentences and slicing frogs.

I'd heard a visitor say, "I have to get home in time for the news."

I don't hear that said much anymore. TV news is never-ending now.

People scrambled to prepare a snack or go to the bathroom during the commercials. TV news wasn't a must-see event in my family. Radio was big in those years and not just in popularity. The radio was often a large appliance. We listened to WCCO Radio regularly while I was growing up. WCCO was a powerful, statewide station that provided news and weather and more weather. I listened to that station because it told stories. Isak Dinesen said, "To be a person is to have a story to tell."

Cat tales

A gray cat begs at our front steps. It's friendly, but not ours. I wish it would go home. It wants food from me. The feline has decided to switch servers.

I feel guilty about not rolling out the red carpet for the cat. I'd like it to live indoors, but I don't need another cat.

It reminds me of the man who cheated his business partner out of $1,000. One night, his conscience bothered him so much that he couldn't sleep. He got out of bed, wrote a check, and placed it in an envelope addressed to his old partner with a note reading, "I haven't been able to sleep because I cheated you out of $1,000. Here's a check for $500. If I still can't sleep, I'll send you the other $500."

Did you know?

Chicago allows a $50 surcharge to riders who vomit inside a taxi.

The percentage of American households with a microwave rose from 82 percent in 1992 to 97 percent in 2011.


"Do you keep a list of the birds you see?"

Sort of. My problem with lists is that I like seeing birds more than I like keeping records. Some people keep a life list, a North American list, a state list, a county list, a yard list, the birds they see on January 1 list, a list of birds seen on a birthday or other such categories. I do many bird surveys and countless bird counts. I report birds seen to the Minnesota Ornithologists' Union and other organizations. So I keep records. Every year at the Minnesota State Fair, there is a raptor guy from Texas. He does a couple of shows each day. This year, what he called a bay-winged hawk, more commonly known as a Harris's hawk, escaped and flew into a tree. It took him a while to recapture the hawk. This happens, I think, every year with this man and one of his birds. It always seems to be a Harris's hawk that escapes. I recall, while I was working at the fair with 200,000 of my closest personal friends, seeing this species of hawk flying overhead. I added it to my fair list of birds.

Neal Batt of Hartland asked what plants would be good for hummingbirds.

Columbine, bee balm, cardinal flower, Japanese honeysuckle, jewelweed, lupine and petunia.

"Something killed several of my chickens, but ate only the heads. What could it be?"

A likely culprit would be the great horned owl. The owl usually eats only the head and neck. Feathers found on a fencepost near the chickens provide a clue. Dead chickens show signs of attack on the sides of the head if a mink or weasel had been the perpetrator. These predators often kill several birds and pile them together. The back of the head and neck are frequently the only parts consumed. A mink or weasel frequently leave a musky, skunk-like odor. If a predator eats the head and the breast meat of the dead birds, a raccoon is probably responsible. A skunk prefers to eat the soft insides, sometimes removing the head to drink blood. The opossum generally attacks one bird per visit. Usually, it eats the chicken's abdomen.

Bob Krenik of Madison Lake asked why he doesn't see gray foxes.

They are shy and primarily nocturnal. The best time to catch a glimpse of one is dawn or dusk. A gray fox can be mistaken for red fox, as they have some red in their coat, but gray is dominant. They lack the black socks of red fox and have a black tail tip rather than a white one. The gray fox climbs trees with apparent ease.

Nature lessons

The kookaburra, famous for calling in old Tarzan movies, is a member of the kingfisher family and is found in Australia. It's sometimes called the "bushman's clock" because of its habit of calling in the morning and evening. Its call sounds like loud, raucous laughter. Does the laughing kookaburra really laugh? In an old children's song, the kookaburra sits in a gum tree, eats gumdrops, and laughs. The call starts out as a chuckle, turns into a belly laugh, and becomes shrieking laughter.

Insect excrement is called frass.

Most white-tailed deer mate in their second year, though females occasionally mate as young as seven months. Mating occurs between October and December and females are pregnant for six and one-half months.

There is no bird migration. There are bird migrations.

Nature notes

Rick Mammel of Albert Lea asked how small birds can eat large sunflower seeds. Goldfinches are capable of handling sunflower seeds too large for some other species of a similar size. A goldfinch holds the seeds with the long axis parallel to the beak, which has cutting edges that crack the hull. A chickadee uses its feet or a crevice to hold the seed like a vise while it hammers it open. Black-oil sunflower seed is the most popular of the bird feeder fare. The outer shell of a black-oil sunflower seed is thinner and easier to crack than that of the gray-striped sunflower seed and the kernel from a black-oil seed is larger than one from a gray-striped.

Thanks for stopping by

"If one could conclude as to the nature of the Creator from a study of creation it would appear that God has an inordinate fondness for stars and beetles." ― J.B.S. Haldane

"A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs - jolted by every pebble in the road." - Henry Ward Beecher

Meeting adjourned

Kindness doesn't need a reason.


© Al Batt 2013