Rick Bohn of Woodworth, N.D., shares this photo of a Nelson's sparrow perched on a branch this summer.
Rick Bohn of Woodworth, N.D., shares this photo of a Nelson's sparrow perched on a branch this summer.
Two trees rubbed large limbs together in the wind. That action produced a sound that was a cross between the howl of a banshee and the snarl of a mountain lion.

The trees were not the kind of things that go bump in the night, but they could be called such things.

My attention was drawn skyward by another sound. Too early for fall, but an autumn sound reaches my ears. Traveling geese.

When the season turns and the days shorten, geese ride helpful winds southward. Perhaps this was a practice run. A V of geese was audible, but nearly invisible until coming close enough to make a dark presence against the sky.

I was happy to see them. A goose is always worth another gander.

Echoes from the Loafers' Club Meeting

"I can't remember anything today."

"Some days are like that."

"I hope I'm not losing my mind."

"Oh, don't worry. You're probably just stupid."

A traveling man

I was staying in what was an old farmhouse until the city of Sterling, Ill., grew around it. The house is offered as quarters for wayfaring strangers. I arrived late in the evening in preparation of giving some talks the next day.

I had been supperless or dinnerless - at least without an evening meal. I'd stopped at a store and picked up something to eat in my room - a couple of Colorado peaches and a smoothie made from strawberries, cherries, plums, apples, purple carrots, red beets, sweet potatoes, sweet corn and chick peas.

I had just finished my splendid repast and was enjoying some hot tea while jotting things down into my composition book, when I noticed it.

There on the floor below the lowest door hinge of the closed door was a sizable lump. I walked to it and could see that it was a wallet. It was much too large to be mine. I picked it up. It was much too heavy to be mine. It could have been used in a weightlifting class.

I opened the wallet and discovered that it was the property of a lawyer from North Carolina. There was a wad of cash thick enough to choke two horses. I counted $300 and would have had more counting to do to arrive at a final figure.

The man in North Carolina now has his wallet and its complete contents back. He'd lost it over a month earlier. When he learned that his wallet was on the way, his comment was, "Are you kidding me?"

I swept the room with a glance

I was manning a broom. I thought of an aunt who made a list of things to do each day. She wrote it in the dust on her furniture. Cleaning the house never made her list of things to do.

I had spilled some birdseed that needed to be corralled into a dustpan. I swept the floor vigorously. Detritus found its way onto the dustpan. I picked up the dustpan, planning to toss the seeds outside where the birds might eat them.

In that process, I noticed that there was a line of dirt that had abutted the edge of the dustpan, but refused to join the rest of its ilk. I swept again. A line remained. I repeated the action a number of times. The only thing that changed was the location of the line of dirt. It was dustrating.

Party line

Beth Horner of Wilmette, Ill., told me when she was a girl, her family had a party line telephone. Anyone on the party line could pick up the receiver and listen in on a conversation. That was called "rubbering."

Now we have cellphones that are not on a party line, but we are allowed to rubber their phone discussions whether we want to or not.

The mention of a party line reminded me of a Hank Williams, Sr., song titled "Mind Your Own Business" that goes like this, "Oh, the woman on our party line's the nosiest thing. She picks up her receiver when she knows it's my ring. Why don't you mind your own business. Well, if you mind your business, then you won't be minding mine."

Beth told me that hers was an eight-party line. She said it was like having an extension phone in seven other homes. Phone subscribers were grouped together on a line. Each was assigned a calling signal of a certain number of long and so many short rings. You could call anyone on your line by ringing his or her ring.

To call a party on another line, you had to go through "central." When the operator answered, you asked for your party. There were those curious people who quietly lifted the receiver and listened in on the conversations of others.

My father knew that a woman rubbered on his party line. Let's say her name was Bertha. At the completion of his call, my father would say, "Goodnight, Bertha." When he encountered her later in person, he could tell that she was furious with him, but she couldn't tell anyone why.

Q and A

"What do green herons eat?"

Green herons are carnivorous, eating primarily fish and invertebrates. They are opportunistic foragers that make use of available food resources. Their diet includes leeches, earthworms, dragonflies, damselflies, waterbugs, grasshoppers, crayfish, minnows, sunfish, catfish, perch, eels, goldfish (in backyard ponds), rodents, lizards, frogs, tadpoles, and snakes. Feeding can take place day or night.

"What does it mean when a lake turns over?"

Water density varies with water temperature. Water is heaviest at 39º F and as temperature varies from 39º F, it becomes lighter. In summer and winter, lakes are maintained in a stratified condition. Less dense water is at the surface and more dense water is near the bottom. During the late summer and autumn, air temperatures cool the surface water causing its density to increase. The heavier water sinks, forcing the lighter water to the surface. This continues until the water temperature at all depths reaches approximately 39º F. Because there is little difference in density at this stage, the waters are easily mixed by the wind. The sinking action and mixing of the water by the wind results in the exchange of surface and bottom waters that is called "turnover." In the spring, the process reverses itself. Ice melts and surface waters warm and sink until the water temperature at all depths reaches approximately 39º F. The sinking combined with wind mixing causes spring "turnover."

"What causes fairy rings on my lawn?"

Circles or arcs of dark green, lush, fast growing grass is perhaps the most common fairy ring, especially in spring. These rings are commonly 2 to 15 feet in diameter. Mushrooms or puffballs may appear under wet conditions in this same ring pattern. A ring of brown or dead grass may appear. Fairy ring fungi are not attacking the grass directly, but are breaking down organic matter in the soil. As a result, nitrogen is released that the grass may use, causing the green ring. In cases where the mycelia of the fungus become dense enough to inhibit water movement into the soil, grass in the arc may turn brown. The mushrooms that appear after a rain are the fruiting bodies of the fungus. The organic matter a fairy ring breaks down is often tree stumps, roots, logs, lumber or other large pieces of organic material found in the soil below the lawn. Once this material is depleted, the fairy ring disappears. This may take considerable time.

Meeting adjourned

A kind word is like the morning light. It chases away the darkness.

Thanks for stopping by

"There are better golfers, there are better drivers, there are better swimmers and there are better cooks. The one thing that no one can ever be better than you at is being you. Just be you. There's no one more qualified for the job." - Doe Zantamata

"While others may argue about whether the world ends with a bang or a whimper, I just want to make sure mine doesn't end with a whine." - Barbara Gordon


©Al Batt 2012