Dr. Leonid and Kathleen Skorin of Albert Lea kindly invited my wife and me to their home for a snapping turtle release. Forty-one tiny turtles had been rescued from storm drains and were being released into Lake Chapeau by neighborhood children.

Young snappers are about an inch long with soft shells at hatching and must make it to water without being preyed upon by raccoons, skunks, foxes, dogs, birds and snakes. Even in water, fish may take the young turtles.

The turtles overwinter in shallow water, sitting on the bottom, digging into mud, or sheltered under debris, absorbing oxygen into their skin.

The common snapping turtle is Minnesota's largest turtle. The upper shell (carapace) of an adult averages 8 to 14 inches in length and its weight ranges from 10 to 35 pounds. The carapace is green to brown to black in color and is often covered in moss.


A river of blackbirds flowed overhead. Fall was in the air. I was happy that autumn shared its precious gift with me.

One of the nice things about Minnesota is that by the time you grow weary of a season, it has changed.

There was much chattering among the countless blackbirds, meaning they were socializing.

I could almost hear the Beatles singing, "I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together."

A sumptuous combination of beauty and imagination, nature buries itself in the heart of a watcher.

Are gulls gullible?

Jack Brush of New Ulm told me that he was fishing near 200 gulls when the gulls suddenly took to the air. A bald eagle flew by. I've watched bald eagles for many years and I've seen an eagle kill only one gull. The eagle didn't eat it. It was a battle over a salmon. The eagle grew weary of being tormented by gulls and flew into a tree. It preened for a bit before flying down and dispatching a gull. I've seen eagles threaten gulls and I've watched them steal food from gulls, typically carrion. Gulls, in turn, harass eagles on kill. Fish are the main entrée for bald eagles, but they eat a variety of foods. The gulls were being on the safe side.

Golfing with a hummingbird

Shaun Olson of Wells teed off on the golf course when a hummingbird landed on the John Deere hat he was wearing. Shaun swung, the hummingbird flew from the hat and Shaun's drive was long, straight and true. Perhaps those who are hoping to improve their golf games would be well served by encouraging hummingbirds to land on their heads.

Echoes From Loafers' Club

"You look good. How old are you?"

"I don't know."

"You don't know how old you are?"

"I used to, but I think I'm older than that now."

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: patience is evident in each car going the speed limit.

I've learned

If I want time alone, I should be punctual.

Cameras in cellphones keep UFOs away.

Cross-country is a sport that is punishment for athletes in other sports.

I fall for it every year

The Christmas catalogs begin piling up. I can't turn around without a gardener showing me tomatoes, eggplants, or zucchini that they claim looks just like Richard Nixon. I rejoice in a time of the year that is too late to mow and too early to rake.

I need to summon my minions

My wife, The Queen B, and I ate at Dino's Pizza in North Mankato. The pizza was good and the server friendly. I noticed a menu item for pizza for 300, offering 75 18-inch pizzas plus 75 pitchers of soda for only $1,999.

I call it work

"So, what work do you do, then?" asked the man from Nebraska.

"I'm a writer and a storyteller," I said as proudly as a Minnesotan can say anything about himself.

"I worked in the blistering hot foundry. I mixed sand with clay and water to make sand molds. It was backbreaking work. So, what work do you do then?"

Customer comments

Mark Christenson of Minneapolis sends this, "Never hold a grudge. If you do, you are allowing someone you don't like to live in your head rent free."

We were talking about such things as the fair's deep-fried butter on a stick and the habit many have of salting everything. Jack Moon of Kiester said he has gotten to the point where he puts salt only on his food.

I spoke at a reunion for the Albert Lea High School class of 1948. Wonderful people. They talked a bit about future reunions. One member of the class asked, "Is there money in the budget to get bigger nametags with larger print?"

Andy Offutt Irwin of Covington, Ga., was on his way to a speaking engagement in Arkansas. He set his GPS for the city of Russell. The GPS took him there without a hitch. There was only one problem. His speaking engagement was in Russellville, not Russell. The two cities are 110 miles apart.

Dan Bagley of Nevada, Iowa, went to high school in Nebraska. After the graduation ceremony, the graduates were told they had two hours to vacate the premises or be arrested.

Ric McArthur of Morpeth, Ontario, wrote, "Met up with a friend who I hadn't seen in several months. He gave me the best compliment I've had in years. He said: 'If I didn't know you already, I would look forward to meeting you.'"

Bob Johnson of almost everywhere sent this, "I changed the voice on my GPS to a British man's, because the lady giving directions sounded too much like my ex-wife."

Alice Zacherle of Napa, Calif., said that there are so many fat-free foods available today, that she wonders where all the fat went.

Grant Olson from Seed Savers in Decorah told me he and his bride honeymooned in Quebec. While there, they enjoyed maple syrup pie and poutine. Poutine is a Canadian dish, made with French fries topped with brown gravy and cheese curds. It's health food, but it might not be good health food.

Anne McArthur of Morpeth, Ontario, asked why pirates are called pirates. Her answer was, "They just arrrr!"

Nature notes

Janice Van Wilgen of Hollandale sent me a photo of a baldheaded cardinal and wondered what was going on. I see cardinals and blue jays in this condition each summer. Having a bad feather day makes the birds look like tiny vultures or reptiles. As a boy, I was told that mites - possibly disease or diet - caused such a condition. Nobody ever mentioned stress. I believe there is another reason for the odd look. An abnormal molt occurs on some birds that causes them to lose their head feathers simultaneously. Most examinations of the birds in this circumstance show no mites or disease, but there will be more research. The feathers grow back so there is no need to start a Hair Club for Cardinals. I can't address what impact baldness might have on a bird's self-esteem.

Nature lessons

The bar-tailed godwit, a plump shorebird, flies as far as 7,242 miles without stopping on its annual fall migration from Alaska to New Zealand.

In a promotion for McCormick Spices, Baltimore Bill, a crab, was sent down a plank into Chesapeake Bay. If he scuttles the pier's right flank, an early winter is ahead; a path to the left indicates a warm fall. Baltimore Bill, in a reversal from a year ago, headed left.

Thanks for stopping by

"If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I'll bet they'd live a lot differently." - Calvin of the "Calvin and Hobbes" comic strip

"Make a habit of two things: to help; or at least to do no harm." - Hippocrates

Meeting adjourned

Kind acts improve with practice.


© Al Batt 2013