It was March. I was in Nebraska. It was cold. It was dark. I was in a primitive blind waiting for daybreak. I was there to see countless sandhill cranes come off the Platte River like smoke off the water.

Most of the people who joined me were in a state between sleep and thrilled to pieces. Being thrilled to pieces is an odd and scary place to be and I don't fully understand what the pieces are. I digress.

There we were. Most of us dressed similarly, but in different colors. At least, I think they were different. It was very dark.

We waited in the dark as it began to weaken. There was nothing else to do. A woman standing near me whispered, "Look at my husband. He's sleeping."

I squinted like Clint Eastwood and could see a man lying against the wall. He did appear to be snoozing. It wasn't a bad idea. I watched as the woman walked over to the sleeping man and grabbed him in a familiar way. The man said something sounding like "Yerp," bolted upright, and banged his head sharply on a wooden bench.

The woman stepped back just in time to hear her husband, who had been standing behind her all the while, ask, "What are you doing?"

Echoes from a Loafers' Club Meeting

"We're getting older."

"I hear that. Where do you see yourself in five years?"

"In mirrors."

I've learned

1. When Superman makes jokes about his girlfriend, it's the Lois form of humor.

2. The cream rises to the top, but so does the scum.

3. That when the cashier says, "Strip down," she's talking about my credit card.

Thoughts of the election

1. I read that the human body has 45 miles of nerves. If that's true, negative ads have gotten on every inch of them.

2. Elections should be held on Christmas. Then, if we don't like someone we elected, we could exchange him.

3. A yard sign has never changed my mind as to whom I am voting for.

The news from Hartland

Pumpkin Patch closes. Owners claim to be out of their gourds.

Chimney sales are through the roof at Sherlock Homes.

Fast food restaurant offers escargot sandwiches for those wanting to slow down.

Tomb it may concern. Halloween memories

I liked the school bus. The problem was that it stopped at the ends of too many driveways. It wasn't the express. I was early on the bus, late off. I looked at my seatmate. He was dressed like Dracula. It was a pain in the neck riding a bus with a vampire. I told him of a nonexistent man named Jeckle who lived near our school. I assured him that we could knock on the door of Jeckle and hide.

Cafe chronicles

"Could I have my hamburger without onions?"

"I'm sorry, but we're out of onions. Would you like it without pickles instead?"

I was seated at the table of infinite wisdom. Men ate with a lupine voracity. The discussion was on frugality. Loren Ingebretsen of Felton, Minn., told me that he's so cheap that included in his directions to his family following his death is, "Slice the ham thin."

My contribution to the table topic was the tale of my frugal neighbor.

"Put on your coat," he said to his wife.

"Are we going out?" she asked.

"I am, but you're staying home."

"Then why do I need to wear a coat?" she wondered aloud.

"Because I'm turning off the heat."

Those thrilling days of yesteryear

Tom Benson operated the barbershop here for many years. Some thought that his dog spent so much time there because it enjoyed watching Tom cut hair. I worried that the canine was waiting for Tom to cut off a customer's ear.

Customer comments

Jim Mathis of Atlanta told me about the great numbers of northerners who winter in south Florida. He said that there are so many, the farther south you get, the more north it becomes.

Duane Miller of Hartland said that his great nephew calls his great-uncle, "Grunkle Duane."

Dan Carlin is a retired teacher from Faribault. His students were fond of asking Dan if he were related to George Carlin. Dan replied, "He's my brother, but my wife won't let him in the house because of his filthy language."

Barb Finseth of New Richland told me that her father, Ken, offered his farm driveway to youngsters for sledding down. If the weather was not conducive to good sledding (some claim that Minnesota has only two seasons - winter and poor sledding), Ken would run water down the driveway to make it world class sledding.

Looking locally

I walked on the lawn. I considered stacking the leaves. Raking them into piles is the lazy man's way. I was a bit bummed by the teams that had made it to the World Series. The Giants versus the Tigers. I was hoping that the Cardinals would be playing the Orioles - an all-avian series.

For the first morning in quite a spell, I didn't have the sensation of bugs crawling on my skin. It wasn't because I'd suddenly regained my sanity. It was because there were no bugs crawling on my skin. It was a morning too cold for flying insects such as boxelder bugs and lady beetles.

A great number of blackbirds flew into a nearly leafless tree. The birds became the foliage.

A chickadee called from an arborvitae. As I walked past that dense greenery, a mourning dove flew out. I recalled a Grateful Dead song, "Side by side in the family tree. The dove and chickadee sing for free. Outside, when the weather is cold. Warming up with harmony laid in gold. The sound of music and words of love. Songs of chickadee and the dove."

Later, I watched as a chickadee hectored a hawk that had the audacity to venture into the chickadee's territory. The chickadee, cute and so tiny that I could put three of them into an envelope and mail for a single Forever stamp, is a fierce creature. It's not considered an apex predator, but I've held them in my hands and experienced their wrath. If the chickadee were the size of a chicken, none of us would dare go outside.

Seeing in the dark

I walked through the darkness of an Alberta urban park with Scott Hoyland of Red Deer. Scott was doing some thermal imaging. Thermal imaging cameras convert the energy in the infrared wavelength into a visible light display. This allowed us to locate living things in an area lacking ambient light. I saw plenty of roosting robins and a Townsend's solitaire. And my father said that nothing good ever happened after midnight.

Nature notes

"Is there a spray that will discourage squirrels?"

I've not used any as a squirrel deterrent, but I've heard from many readers regarding such things. I've been told that squirrels don't like the smell of dog repellent spray. They also purportedly dislike the smell of vinegar. Many people have used Liquid Fence to deter squirrels from digging up bulbs or potted plants and from making a dog's breakfast of the landscaping. Liquid Fence is an all-natural repellent with ingredients that include garlic. I must qualify my answer, as I've never used these methods to keep squirrels at bay. I've tried mothballs and found them of no help.

Thanks for stopping by

"I have one share in corporate Earth, and I am nervous about the management." - E. B. White

"A day without laughter is a day wasted." - Charles Chaplin

Meeting adjourned

Make kindness your default position.

©Al Batt 2012