Bob Guenther of Alden shared this photo of some indigo buntings.
Bob Guenther of Alden shared this photo of some indigo buntings.
Lewis and Clark had a supply list that included 25 hatchets, 10.5 pounds of fishing hooks and lines, 12 pounds of soap, 3 bushels of salt, 45 flannel shirts, 15 pairs of wool overalls, 176 pounds of gunpowder, 130 rolls of tobacco, 4,600 sewing needles, a microscope, a telescope, 2 sextants, 15 .54-caliber rifles and 600 of Dr. Rush's patented "Thunderclapper" pills - a laxative made from mercury and jalapeños. All this and more went into three boats.

Had it been the Lewis, Clark and Batt Expedition, Watkins Petro-Carbo Salve would have been on each boat. It was first aid in a round, red tin. We applied it to cuts, burns, scrapes, bites and wounds of undetermined origin. It has been known by many names - black salve, carbolic salve, black ointment, udder balm, drawing salve, bag balm and cow salve.

I've heard it called "doorknob salve" because it was so good it would grow hair on a doorknob. Or maybe it was because it could be put on the doorknob to keep the kids out.

Watkins, located in Winona, introduced this product in 1888. The active ingredient is phenol (carbolic acid). It's no longer black in color, but the nostalgic aroma remains just as it was. Its unique odor derives from botanicals such as camphor, oil of spruce and cajeput oil (a tea tree relative). It was used on everything from skinned knees to burns and boils. If what I had couldn't be cured with this salve, I was in serious trouble.

Once upon a time, I could tell a rich farmer from a poor farmer. The rich farmer kept a can of Watkins Petro-Carbo Salve in the house for his family and another one in the barn for the cattle. The poor farmer carried his one tin back and forth between the house and the barn.

Nature by the yard

Barn swallows flew over the deck of the house. They repeated their "click-it" calls as if they were doing a public service announcement promoting seat belt usage. They were bent on building a nest over a light. I asked them politely not to do that.

Other birds of the yard sang songs I have whistled for a lifetime. The air was filled with birdcalls, some of which I will not hear for a year. Many of the birds have a history of moving on and the eventual spring had slowed their progress.

A wild turkey ambled through the yard. No song there. When my neighbor Crandall sees one, he immediately looks for wild stuffing. I thought of a man who told me of the time that he was doing a turkey call while hidden in some bushes during the hunting season when another hunter shot him. Apparently, he was good at doing turkey calls. Fortunately, the wound proved to be non-life threatening. I asked him what he did after being shot. He told me that he yelled, "I'm not a turkey."

I'll bet real turkeys do the same thing.

When dandelions fly

Ardy Madson of Hartland told me that her husband, Milo, thought there were a lot of dandelions on his lawn this spring. They turned out to be American goldfinches. A fellow from Chicago told me that he'd become a birder because of a day when he was a boy and saw dandelions fly. He thought the goldfinches on the ground had been dandelions. We see a lot when we see a little.

Echoes from the Loafers Club Meeting

"This nice weather brings fond memories of the time I ran that marathon."

"I remember that. You ran only 50 yards."

"I know, but I made good time."

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: What would archaeologists discover if they made the area behind the cushions of your couch the site of a dig?

I've learned

That after the Oklahoma tornado, I'll never complain about our weather again.

The breakfast sandwich is the most important sandwich of the day.

Gas prices go up when the grass grows tall.

Ask Al

"Why do you stay in Hartland?" To see what happens next.

"Why?" Why not?

"Why did your wife marry a man so much taller than she is?" It's good for her posture.

"Have you always been funny?" The day I was born, people laughed.

"When did you start to travel?" I began traveling when a neighbor told me to get off his lawn.

Have you ever wondered?

What age are we when we find it necessary to lick a thumb or forefinger in order to turn the pages of a book or magazine? A dampened digit does come in handy. I know if my finger is wet, I am turning the page forward. If my thumb is wet, I am paging backward to check on something I'd read or missed.

Fattigmann forever

While visiting with a couple of my wife's relatives from Norway, I learned more about fattigmann - a type of Norwegian fried-dough cookie. I've eaten the stuff, but knew nothing more about it other than I liked it.

Fattigmann is eaten in the areas of North America where Scandinavians settled. The dough is made from egg yolks, egg whites, sugar, cream, brandy (optional), cinnamon, cardamom, and flour. Vanilla and other things can be a part.

Fattigmann means "poor man." It's from the ingredients that it gets its name. The joke is that fattigmann was so expensive to make, that making it would leave you a poor man.

Nature notes

Shakespeare wrote, "Like to the lark at break of day arising from sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate."

Larks are grassland birds. Lacking the use of trees, the lark sings melodiously on wing. We have but one species of the classical lark here - the horned lark. The eastern and western meadowlarks are members of the blackbird family. I see meadowlarks singing while perched upon posts; their breasts highlighted by the sun in such a way that it appears the birds are wearing cardigan sweaters.

Nature lessons

Being hit by a car is the most common injury suffered by birds brought to the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota for treatment.

Meeting adjourned

Without kindness, life is a suitcase with no handle.

Thanks for stopping by

"For observing nature, the best pace is a snail's pace." - Edwin Way Teale

"Tomorrow hopes that we have learned something from yesterday." - John Wayne


© Al Batt 2013