Erwin Hill of Albert Lea told me that he had obtained a metal birdhouse that had been designed to look like a giant acorn. Erwin wasn't enchanted with the birdhouse, but he put it up and the birds loved it.

One hot, summer day, Erwin noticed the birds peeking out of the entrance hole and panting. Erwin felt sorry for them and filled a watering can. He placed a stepladder near the birdhouse, carried the watering can up the ladder and began pouring water onto the birdhouse.

Erwin thought he was cooling the birds, but what he was doing was entertaining the neighbors who saw Erwin watering a giant acorn.

Hawks and snakes discover electricity

John Beal of Faribault writes, "Hello Al, Just a bit of trivia for you in the hawk world. My wife and I noticed a red-tailed hawk dead on a power pole about a mile from our home. I asked the operations manager at Steele-Waseca Cooperative Electric what could have happened? He said many times a red-tail will pick up a long snake and go to the pole to eat it. With the snake hanging down and making contact with the neutral his time on earth is over instantly."

Birding can be hard on the brakes

Judy Boyd of Red Deer, Alberta, told me that her mechanic had commented that someone had been a bit aggressive with her braking the car. Judy explained to him, "I'm a birder. When someone says, 'Bird,' I stop."

Robins riding the rails

Tony Blake of Red Deer told me that he had worked for the railroad for many years. He said that robins often built nests on train cars only to see the nests disappear down the tracks.

I hear them, too

Ric McArthur of Morpeth, Ontario, writes, "We have flying squirrels that come to our seed feeders after dark. The are active from late May through June and then again in October. My wife, Anne, suggested I leave a feeder out as she had heard footprints on the roof."

Nature lessons

The red-headed woodpecker was mentioned in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's epic poem "The Song of Hiawatha." It told of how a grateful Hiawatha gave the bird its red head in gratitude for service rendered. The red-headed woodpecker has many nicknames, including half-a-shirt, shirt-tail bird, jellycoat, flag bird and the flying checkerboard.

Buying bird seed

Albert Lea Audubon will be holding a Bird Seed Sale from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 10, at Albert Lea Seed House.

Echoes from Loafers' Club

"All you did was to complain about the food at that restaurant."

"It was terrible."

"And then you left a $10 tip."

"I wanted them to know what a wonderful customer they had lost."

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: It's OK to eat cake every day. It's somebody's birthday.

I've learned

1. Today's misadventures become tomorrow's good old days.

2. The bed is a great place for remembering everything I should have done.

3. I have more money than sense and I have very little money.

The news from Hartland

Homecoming was a big success. All trees were toilet papered except for the weeping willow trees that had facial tissues put on them.

Local fishermen give in to pier pressure.

School closes lunchroom due to gray food coloring shortage.

Variety show canceled due to leaky water pipes and piano player's illness, proving that there is more than one way to can a skit.

Ask Al

"Why do humans eat so much fatty foods?" They're easy to catch.

"How can I tell when my farmer husband wants to kiss me?" He will turn his cap around so that the bill is to the back.

"Do you believe in cow tipping?" Sure - 15 percent is customary, a bit more for exceptional service.

Hey, you!

I was about to begin teaching some writing classes. As I picked up my room assignments, an administrator, who I've known for years, asked me if I should be referred to as Al, Allen or Mr. Batt. I paused in my reply, trying to come up with the most appropriate name, pleased that he had not included "Hey, you." I must have paused too long, as the man said, "The questions don't get any easier."

A traveling man

I had just eaten some nameless cereal in a hotel far from home. It tasted like shredded catalogs might taste and was the kind of cereal that made me wish I'd stayed in bed. All the flavor had been replaced with fiber. I looked at the woman in charge of the breakfast area. She looked like that wonderful kind of person who would be more than willing to give directions using landmarks that no longer exist.

"The cereal," I said, making a face.

"I know," she replied, mirroring my countenance.


Back before zombies could vote, there was a place we called The Passion Pit. It was a drive-in movie theater. We sat in our cars and watched movies on a giant outdoor screen. This enterprise was fond of showing scary movies we called "creature features." In reality, they weren't all that scary. They depended upon the overactive imaginations of their viewers to make them frightening. Nothing I saw in any of those shows was nearly as terrifying as the attack ads that proliferate today.

Did you know?

Lee County in Iowa has two county seats, Fort Madison and Keokuk.

According to a study by Newcastle University published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the screech of a knife on a glass bottle has been identified as the worst sound to the human ear.

University of Kansas research found that judgments based on looking at someone's shoes were right 90 percent of the time. Liberals do wear shabby shoes and extroverts wear flashy footwear.

Overheard only because she was yelling into a cellphone in the Calgary Airport

"As husbands go, he went, but I love what you've done with your husband."

Living on a jet plane

I always come back from working on the road a different person. And I get to meet some different people.

I walked to the hotel desk, prepared to make a late night check-in.

The clerk greeted me with a smile before saying, "Are you sure you want to stay here?"

"What?" I replied cleverly.

"It's my last day on this job," she said.

Customer comments

P. Jean Champoux wrote, "Just a note to tell you that my grandfather lost a leg in a railroad accident. He wore a wooden one and amused his daughter, my mother, and her childhood friends by using a hammer and tacks to keep his socks up.

Jeanne Mealy included this at the end of her email, "This e-mail is a natural hand-made product. The slight variations in spelling and grammar enhance its individual character and beauty and in no way are to be considered flawws."

Meeting adjourned

"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." - Winston Churchill.

Be kind.

© Al Batt 2012