I ring bells for the Salvation Army. It's a gift I give myself. It feels good to help. As I rang the bell in the grocery store, a stream of shopping carts carrying clementines and cat litter went by.

I encouraged folks to buy peanuts in the shell as the store had made a mountain out of a molehill of goober peas.

I told shoppers that a shopping cart had been owned by a little old lady who used it only after church on Sunday.

I made a Christmas wish on behalf of all clueless shoppers such as me. I wished that products offered in the store were in alphabetical order.

As I rang and spoke to dear hearts and gentle people, a man approached and asked, "Have you seen my wife?"

"No, but I don't even know your wife," I answered.

"Then how do you know you haven't seen her?"

Did you know?

Aluminum Christmas trees were first manufactured in 1958.

According to The White House Historical Association, the first White House Christmas tree, decorated with candles and toys, was placed in the second floor oval room in 1889 for President Benjamin Harrison and his family.

Santa Claus is a city in Indiana.

Retail detail

Karen Daniels of Williamsport, Penn., volunteered at the American Bald Eagle Foundation's gift shop in Haines, Alaska. Karen admits that her skills are better suited for being a greeter than a cashier.

She was behind the cash register when a customer purchased a moose poop Christmas ornament produced by Turds R Us. The price on the ornament, which was guaranteed to bring a tear to the eye of a recipient, was $5. Karen rang it up as $5,000. That made it the gift shop's best day ever.

"I don't think my credit card will cover it," protested the customer.

"Shall we try it and see?" said the ever-helpful Karen.

They didn't try. Credit cards and moose poop have their limits.

Christmas considerations

Things were quiet. That was no surprise. Most of the people were in China or India. I listened to Simon and Garfunkel sing about a winter's day in a deep and dark December.

Some folks complain that "nice" and "cold" do not belong in the same sentence, but it was nice and cold. Actually, it was nice, cold, windy, snowy and icy.

There must have been an earthquake. Anyone who has ever owned a snow globe knows that earthquakes cause snowfalls.

I wrapped presents. Finding the starting point on a roll of Scotch tape is nearly as great a struggle for me as was shopping for the presents.

A fine feeder

It was a snazzy, hanging tube feeder that dispensed sunflower seeds fairly. A raccoon, unaware of the fact that the feeder was supposed to be indestructible, broke it. The feeder had a lifetime warranty, but I thought that might have been for the lifetime of the feeder. I took the damaged device to a fine, local dispensary of birdie things and the feeder was made whole at no cost. It makes sense to buy quality things.

Bird do-it-yourselfers

Many people claim that, with rare exceptions, birds don't use tools. If that's true, why did I see a house sparrow in the tool department of Home Depot?

I wish I could ask Mom

Canada geese flew over in a messy V-formation. The big birds were either tired or illiterate. One of the geese was strikingly small. It might have been a cackling goose. I thought of Dr. Seuss and one of his books, "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish," that contains the lines, "We see them come. We see them go. Some are fast. And some are slow. Some are high. And some are low. Not one of them is like another. Don't ask us why. Go ask your mother."

I like ants. I studied them from my get-go, back when I thought antlers were young ants. My mother told people that I wouldn't become an entomologist. She said that I would become an "antomologist."

Owly

The great horned had owl-waiting, hooting as if there were still a few flowers left in the bunch. Listen for great horned owls to start their duet hooting in December or January. Along about January, chickadees begin whistling, "Spring's here." They might be overly-optimistic, but spring is somewhere.

Pelican populations

More than 22,000 pelicans nest at 15 sites in Minnesota. Marsh Lake, located in Big Stone County, is home to the largest American white pelican colony in North America. There are about 34,000 adult pelicans there that raise 17,000 chicks each year.

Al Grewe banded 33,009 pelicans at Marsh Lake (1972-2000) and Jeff DiMatteo has banded another 21,243 (2001-2012). Eggs and discarded bill knob tissue samples showed significant contaminants from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

A tracking device on one pelican revealed that it took 112 days to complete its southward migration. It traveled 1,587 miles with only 14 days of over 10 miles of movement. Its average flight speed was about 20 mph.

Echoes from Loafers' Club

"My Uncle Phil McAvity pulled my tooth."

"Have a toothache?"

"No."

"Bad tooth?"

"No."

"Then why did he pull it?"

"It was my Christmas present."

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: I should be extremely kind and compassionate to those around me during the Christmas season, because I never know who will be my Secret Santa.

I've learned

1. When you stop believing in Santa, you get underwear.

2. Tangled Christmas lights teach us patience and perseverance.

3. A discount Christmas tree drops needles faster than a bad knitter.

4. If you eat so much that you turn green, someone will hang tinsel on you.

5. If you insist on sticking food up your nose, you belong at the kids' table.

6. Oysters appear just when you think it's safe to eat stew.

A look from away

Edgar Mitchell, an astronaut and the sixth man to walk on the moon, told me that when he saw Earth from space, he thought it silly to divide it up among nations.

No white-winged crossbills for them

Barrow, Alaska, has 28 miles of unpaved roads - none of which connect to another community. Travel is by air, boat or snowmachine. On Nov. 17, the city goes into 67 days of total darkness.

Will Rogers and Wiley Post were killed in a plane crash near Barrow.

A Christmas Bird Count is done in a count circle with a diameter of 15 miles. Counts are held on a day from Dec. 14 to Jan. 5. Barrow is the northernmost point for a CBC. I was unable to find the results, but I'm told that they get only one bird on their CBC each year - the raven.

Thanks for stopping by

"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful."- Norman Vincent Peale

"The earth has grown old with its burden of care, but at Christmas it always is young. The heart of the jewel burns lustrous and fair. And its soul full of music breaks the air, when the song of angels is sung." - Phillips Brooks

Merry Christmas. DO GOOD.

Meeting adjourned

May peace and happiness be yours at Christmas and may kindness be your gift to others.

©Al Batt 2012