Cicada Killers are shown with cicadas.
Cicada Killers are shown with cicadas.
I admit it, I don't enjoy loud music. I try not to gripe about it, but I growl occasionally.

When I do that, I recall a Robert Frost poem, titled, "A Minor Bird."

It reads, "I have wished a bird would fly away, And not sing by my house all day. Have clapped my hands at him from the door, When it seemed as if I could bear no more. The fault must partly have been in me. The bird was not to blame for his key. And of course there must be something wrong, In wanting to silence any song."

Echoes from Loafers' Club

"What do you do?"

"I help people make money."

"Like who?"

"Like my doctor, my cellphone provider, my cable company guy, my mechanic, my..."

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: if it could happen to anyone, why doesn't it?

Nature by the yard

The dew had been done. The grass was dry.

The wind swirled. The branches of trees unable to decide which way they were going to bend.

The breeze kept the mosquitoes away. That was good. The mosquitoes had enjoyed the home-field advantage far too long.

Crows flew overhead, feathered misdemeanors. Crows always seem to be up to something. I see them regularly in the yard.

I looked up again and saw a feisty eastern kingbird harassing the crows. It was a combination soap opera/demolition derby in the sky.

It was the beauty of a second look.

Ask Al

"What can you tell me about picking edible fungi?"

I will warn you that there's not "mushroom" for error.

"What was the most ostentatious wedding you've ever attended?"

That would have been the Snooty/Persnickety nuptials. Former NFL great Jerry Rice was thrown at the couple.

"I looked at an old history book and was impressed with the colors shown in it. Do you know what they are called?"

Those are "past tell" colors.

North Dakota notions

I'd been working in North Dakota. It's a well-oiled state. The mosquitoes are trained to drill for oil. One fellow claimed to have found happiness right in his own backyard - with an oil well. A friend who lives in North Dakota wishes that he had an oil well. I sent him a get-well card.

Cafe chronicles

The sign read, "Sorry, were open." Four friends and six opinions sat at a table. It was a favored place because nothing there was hard to swallow. The waitress said that she was using the backup coffeepot. She didn't say why, so I assumed that the regular coffeepot had the day off. One diner asked what he should give his wife on their 55th anniversary and was told that was the fiber anniversary. Bran cereals were suggested as appropriate gifts.

Did you know?

Canada has a population of 35 million. California's population is 37 million.

Ford sold its first car in 1903, a red, two-cylinder Model A with no roof. It was sold to a Chicago dentist named Ernst Pfenning, who paid $850 for it. The car's top speed was 28 mph.

Popular folklore says that when a cat stares out a window, it will rain. If that is true, it should rain 365 days a year.

It wasn't long ago when drought was a big worry. Shortly thereafter, I heard people saying, "We've only had rain twice this year-once for 30 days and once for 45 days."

Maybe too many people prayed for rain.

Customer comments

Bob Hargis of Riverton, Wy., wrote, "Have not gone to any of Washington Union High School in Fremont, California, class of '61 reunions yet. Bill Walsh was my PE coach my freshman year. I eagerly asked young football guru 'Coach, should I go out for football, huh?' He responded with a long stare - the kind you get when you are trying to see a 3-D image out of a 2-D page -looking almost through and behind the image in front of you. 'Hargis,' he said, 'SWIM!' Sage advice from this man who went on to coach legendary teams and reinvent conventional football of the era. Come to think of it, school is supposed to promote lifetime learning and skills. Swimming is for life and football certainly ain't."

Nature notes

Gail Savick of Freeborn wrote, "I want to know if there is some meaning behind the blackbirds dropping their babies' poop in the bird waterer after taking it out of the nest?"

The toilet habits of the grackle irritate many folks. Baby grackles produce fecal material that looks like miniature sandwich bags filled with poop. The parents grab these little bird diapers and fly away with them. They want to dump them away from the nest so that predators wouldn't be aware of the location of the baby birds. The grackle considers water the perfect place to dump its cargo, as it washes away all evidence. A swimming pool or birdbath is ideal, but a car with a nice polish does in the pinch, as does my garage door.


"I saw a great horned owl. It looked huge. How big is this owl?"

A great horned owl looks much bigger than it is. An average size would be slightly over 3 pounds and 22 inches long with a 44-inch wingspan.

"Are there more or less rabbits this year?"

Yes, depending upon your location. Cottontail numbers run in cycles. The population builds to a high level before disease, predation and poor reproduction bring the numbers down. Some researchers believe that a population spike occurs at 10-year intervals. Different areas may be on varied years of these cycles. Fewer than one in 100 rabbits lives to a third year. If there are fewer rabbits, please don't blame Elmer Fudd.

"It looked like a hummingbird, but I don't think it was. What was it?"

Neither bird nor plane nor flying frog, your visitor is likely a sphinx moth, also called a hummingbird moth or hawk moth. It's roughly the same size as a hummingbird and is able to hover while nectaring from flowers. They fly up to 12 mph.

"There are giant wasps buzzing around. Are we all going to die?"

Sooner or later, but not likely from these wasps, which are as long as two inches. They are cicada killers that are seen in July and August. Female cicada killers search trees for cicadas. A cicada is stung, carried to the burrow, and placed in the nest. The front legs are used for digging burrows, the hind legs used for kicking out dirt. Cicada killers prefer tunneling in light clay to sandy soil in southeast-facing, full-sun areas with sparse vegetation and well-drained slopes. Because the female is larger than the male, a female egg is provided with two cicadas while a male egg gets only one. After the eggs hatch, the grubs consume the cicadas, molt several times, form cocoons in which to overwinter, and undergo a metamorphosis that allows them to emerge next July just as the cicadas emerge. The males die after mating and females die after laying eggs. By mid- to late-August all adults are dead, the males living about two weeks and the females around four. The males are unable to sting and the adult cicada killers feed on nectar. The female isn't aggressive around humans, but if you were to grab one and say unkind things about her mother, she might sting you.

And another thing

Please join me as the Pelican Breeze cruises on Albert Lea Lake at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 24. Call (507) 377-4370 to book a seat.

Thank you to all the great listeners of the "Over the Back Fence Variety Show" on KFIL Radio. It was fun playing a part.

Thanks for stopping by

"A knowledge of the path cannot be substituted for putting one foot in front of the other." - M. C. Richards

"There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will." - Epictetus

Meeting adjourned

Kind words cost little, but are priceless to the beneficiary.


© Al Batt 2013