I paused on my Alaskan hike to visit with a photographer using a camera the size of a Civil War cannon. He was from Nova Scotia and we shared an appreciation of birds.

I pulled my camera from my backpack. It was dwarfed by the size of his device. He looked at my camera, suspecting that I'd gotten it in a box of Cracker Jack that promised, "A prize in every box."

I smiled and said, "Keep at it and one day, you might have a camera just like this baby."

Echoes from Loafers' Club

"I lost all my money in one of those Ponzi schemes."

"Cheer up. It could be worse."

"How could it be worse?"

"It could have been my money."

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: if someone uses a cellphone while driving 60 miles per hour, is he talking a mile a minute?

I've learned

A bird in the hand is the best way to eat chicken.

Not to test the depth of a cow manure pile with both feet.

Every cemetery ought to have an annual tour.

Painting diamonds

"How are you doing?" I asked the couple.

"Staying busy," the husband replied, "by ignoring things until tomorrow."

His wife looked at him and said, "Is your finger broken?"

He didn't reply. What he did was to zip up his fly.

Every family has a code for that sort of thing. Men need reminders because we have a lot to remember.

While he went to retrieve their car, she told me that she'd had her portrait painted recently. She'd always wanted to have that done. She had the artist, a man she called "very talented," add a diamond necklace, diamond earrings, diamond bracelets, and a diamond pendant to the portrait. I replied that she was fortunate to own such niceties as that jewelry.

She responded, "Oh, I don't own any diamonds. I had them added in case I die before my husband. I know he'd remarry and I want his new wife to drive herself crazy looking for those diamonds."

From here to there

I was driving through a local township when I saw a roll of toilet paper on the roadside. I was happy to see it. It's about time we had a rest area.

I drove past an old farmhouse that made me smile. I like seeing clothes hanging out at a discount Laundromat - a backyard clothesline.

I was on my way to a store. I had to go shopping for pants.

That's how I always go shopping - when I have to.

I hadn't worn out all my old pants, but it was imminent. They had pocket gophers.

Those thrilling days of yesteryear

I sat on the bumpy bus. My grade school self bounced in concert with the vehicle's seat. A note was pinned to my shirt. I might have known what its purpose had been, but if I did, I'd forgotten. My teacher had pinned it there to make sure my parents saw it. That could have been good or bad.

I considered pulling the pin out and looking at the note, but feared I wouldn't be able to run the pin back through the original hole. That meant there would be more than one hole in the paper and my parents wouldn't have to hire Dick Tracy to tell them that the note had been opened.

And adults think kids have no worries.


Her life had been edited severely. She was 103 years old. I asked her what was the secret to her longevity. She smiled and replied, "Not dying."

She had been a librarian. I love libraries.

I recall going into an old Carnegie library and being shushed upon entry. That was OK. It seemed right.

Customer comments

Ric McArthur of Morpeth, Ontario, told me the world's shortest ghost story, "The last man on earth sat down in his room. Suddenly there was a knock on the door."

Nature by the yard

The breeze blew through the cottonwood trees. It moved the leaves enough that they produced a sound that nearly quenched my thirst.

The breeze kept the mosquitoes momentarily at bay. You'd think that by this point of the year, the mosquitoes would be bored by my taste.

I examined some common milkweed. I searched for a monarch butterfly egg - a ridged, spherical, white, 1/8-inch long egg. The eggs are laid singly on the underside of milkweed leaves. The female attaches the egg to the leaf with glue she secretes with the egg. The egg hatches in 3 to 5 days. I celebrated the whiff of milkweed in bloom. The pinkish-purple clusters of flowers generate an intoxicating scent that is a manifestation of high summer.

One of my favorite writers, E.B. White, said, "I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day."

I figure that promoting the growth of milkweed covers both desires.

Duck Stamp

The latest Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp has been released-featuring a painting of a common goldeneye by Robert Steiner. Purchasing a migratory bird stamp benefits birds, mammals, plants and water quality. The $15 cost helps pay for habitat acquisition and the stamp also serves as admission to National Wildlife Refuges.

Nature notes

Glenn Ausen of Hartland spotted a hawk that was nearly all white. It was a red-tailed hawk exhibiting leucism. Leucism is an abnormal plumage caused by a genetic mutation that prevents pigment, particularly melanin, from being properly deposited in feathers. This results in birds that don't have the normal, classic plumage colors shown in field guides. A leucistic bird may have white patches where the bird shouldn't have any, a paler overall plumage, or an overall white plumage with little other discernible color.


"What kinds of gulls follow tractors in the fields?"

The planting and harvest season bring gulls that shadow tractors. A farm implement pulled by a tractor is a food processor to gulls. The primary tractor groupies are either the ring-billed gull (slightly larger than a crow) or the Franklin's gull (size of a rock pigeon) with black on its head.

"What vines, shrubs, or trees could I plant to provide berries for birds?"

Elderberry, dogwood, viburnum, raspberry, blueberry, serviceberry, high bush cranberry, chokecherry, mountain ash, black or pin cherry, crabapple, and mulberry are good. Find a species that's hardy.

"What is a windhover?"

The windhover is an archaic name for the kestrel, so named due to its habit of beating the wind (hovering).

"How can I keep ants out of my hummingbird feeders?"

An ant guard is a moat-like saucer from which a feeder hangs. Fill the moat with salad oil or dish detergent. Ants become trapped in the liquid. Some feeders have built-in ant guards.

"Do skunks dig their own dens?"

A skunk may excavate its own burrow, which can be six to 20 feet long and running three to four feet below the surface. More often, a skunk takes over those of woodchucks or foxes. Skunks often reside under decks, porches, barns and crawl spaces.

"What's the best way to remove a tick?"

Use a tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible. Pull upward with a steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk because that could cause the tick's mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub or soap and water. Avoid folkloric remedies such as painting the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using a match to make the tick detach.

Meeting adjourned

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams" - Eleanor Roosevelt

"We can never have enough of nature" - Henry David Thoreau

Meeting adjourned

Use the time you might spend complaining to be kind.


© Al Batt 2013