My wife was off manning the Art Center. I suppose she was actually gal-ing the art gallery. I went to the cafe, where I met a fellow wearing a Minnesota toupee (a gimme cap advertising a seed corn company). The man told me that his name was Duane M. I. Olson. He was one of those fellows who had no indoor voice. After we talked a bit, I was brave enough to ask him what M. I. stood for. He told me that it stood for Middle Initials.

He asked me if I'd ever thought about going by my first initial and my middle name. I hadn't. Have you? How does it sound if you went by your initials. I'd be A. E. Initials are an important consideration when naming a baby. It's nearly as important as naming your dog something you are comfortable shouting out the door of your house.

I signed some official documents recently. My name on the forms included my middle initial. I was asked to add that middle initial in my signature. I did. I don't incorporate the middle initial in my normal signature. That action messed up my messy signature for a few days. There was a bit of indecision each time I scrawled my name. The E wanted in.

Naturally

Spring robins singing, "Merrily, verily. See," put a spring in my step. We have robins in Minnesota all winter, but I typically see new robins migrating to the state in early March. The bulk of the robin migration northward follows the 37-degree isotherm. Female robins return after the males and get right to the task of nesting, as the males have settled most territorial disputes by then.

I watched a blue jay fly into a feeder containing peanuts in a shell. The jay picked up one peanut after another, weighing each to find the best nut for eating.

It isn't a bird's job to entertain me, but it does.

A healing hand

Les Honstad of Freeborn told me that a chickadee flew hard into the window of his house. His 9-year-old granddaughter, Audrey, held the motionless bird gently in her hands. The tiny bird appeared dead. Suddenly, the bird struggled to its feet. It stood, looked around, and flew away. Les said the look on his happy granddaughter's face was priceless.

Echoes from the Loafers' Club Meeting

"I watched the original 'True Grit' the other day. It was good, but John Wayne is really beginning to show his age."

"John Wayne is dead."

"Oh. Well, then he looked pretty good."

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: All my life, I've been told that there is no such thing as bad weather. There is just bad clothing. I would add that there are bad weather forecasts, too.

Armed teachers

The coach was like Marlin Perkins of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom and we were a bunch of Jim Fowlers. We ran up The Hill like Jim trying to perform a root canal on a gigantic crocodile in Australia while Marlin attempted to sell insurance from the safety of an office in Nebraska.

There is much talk about arming our teachers. I hear viewpoints that are pro and con. Teachers carrying weapons is an interesting concept. I want you to think about all of the teachers and coaches you've had in your life. Would you have wanted all of them to be armed?

Memories of mother

My mother was about 5 feet tall. She claimed to have been an inch taller, but that might have been wishful thinking. I grew taller than that because of my mother's gift of encouragement. I stand somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 feet, 4 inches. I'd have been taller, but I was more afraid of heights than widths.

A woman looked up at me and said to my mother, "I can't believe you have a son that big."

Mom smiled and replied, "Well, he wasn't that big when I had him."

Reading the walls

Donald and Glenda Batt of Hartland have this framed and hanging on the wall of their home, "How could I be what I'm not when I have a hard time being what I already am?"

Did you know?

An AARP study showed that the happiest people watch less than an hour of TV a day. University of Maryland researchers concluded that very happy people read the newspaper. Prevention magazine recently cited newspaper reading as one of the things you can do to be happy.

Two to four percent of the world's population has red hair.

A Cornell University researcher found that junk food with green calorie labels is more likely to be perceived as a healthier product.

Nature's World

"Do plastic owls work in discouraging birds?"

They do. Sometimes for as long as a few days. Sometimes for as long as 15 minutes. An owl effigy works to block a nesting or feeding area, but so would a stuffed monkey or a plastic shopping bag. Birds quickly figure out that it's not a real owl. I've seen a crow, mourning dove, robin, grackle and others perched on such owls. I've watched a flicker hammering on a plastic owl, attempting to turn it into a resonant instrument for declaring territory. Some of the owls are nicely done, but unless you are collecting artwork, save your money.

Nature lessons

The city of Cape Coral designated the burrowing owl the official city bird.

Bluebirds can see their tiny prey items from 60 feet or more away. The eastern bluebird sings, "Cheer, cheerful charmer."

Birdhouse entrance holes should face away from prevailing winds because the birds have no doors to close. The houses shouldn't be too close to feeders and there is no need for perches. Predators love perches.

Those raggedy figures in cornfields are called scarecrows, but grackles are a bigger threat to corn. They eat ripening corn as well as corn sprouts.

Scuds are ragged low clouds that move rapidly beneath another cloud layer.

Customer comments

Floyd Alwin of New Ulm told me that when he was a boy, he and his father walked to town. That took most of a day. On one of those walks, a pair of goldfinches fluttered along with them. The birds sang merrily as the men walked. Floyd didn't know why the birds stayed close, but he appreciated their company. I love seeing the goldfinches change from their olive plumage into yellow feathers in the spring. I may not be rich, but these tiny birds give me gold each year.

Annette Perry of New Ulm said that a friend of hers maintains that a mourning dove's call is "I love you, you, you." That's a great way to put words to the dove's song that sounds to me to say, "Hula-hoop, hoop, hoop."

Thanks for stopping by

"I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving he can outwit nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority." - E.B. White

"The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning." - Mitch Albom

Meeting adjourned

Karen Berg of Fountain sent one of my favorite Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes, "You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late."

DO GOOD.

©Al Batt 2013