The turkey vulture, also known in some North American regions as the turkey buzzard, and in some areas of the Caribbean as the John crow or carrion crow, is the most widespread of the New World vultures.
AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
The turkey vulture, also known in some North American regions as the turkey buzzard, and in some areas of the Caribbean as the John crow or carrion crow, is the most widespread of the New World vultures. AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER

My son and I went to a Minnesota Twins game at Met Stadium years ago. The Twins were having a bad year. There were so few fans in the stands that the public address announcer, Bob Casey, could have mentioned each one by name.

We liked the Twins even though they were good at losing. They were what we were used to.

My father came from a large family. His family was like many farm families in that each meal included meat and potatoes. Chicken was often on the menu. My father usually grabbed the neck and put it on his plate when he was a boy. He did so because he never had to fight anyone for the neck. Later, when he had his own farm and family, he still ate the neck. He’d grown to like it. It was what he was used to.

Echoes From Loafers’ Club

Remember when I played in the school band?

Band? It was a bunch of guys who made sounds by sticking their hands under their armpits.

You’re just jealous because you failed the tryouts.

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 was a lovely day, the kind I’d like to order in bulk. I’d listened to some Aretha Franklin on my way to town. It’s great traveling music. The pharmacist asked me my birth date again. I’m pretty sure she's going to get me something nice for my birthday. Things were going so well. Then my barber asked if I wanted a blindfold.

Winter weight

The landline rang. I had to wrestle with the tangled phone cord as if it were an angry constrictor.

The caller was a friend asking me if I wanted to go out for lunch.  He recommended something light as he was trying to lose a few pounds. I’ve often heard the advice that you can never be too rich or too thin.

I thought of my father and his generation of agricultural engineers. They weren’t given to eating foods they didn’t like in order to lose weight. Most of them worked too hard to have any weight to lose. They dieted in a different way.

At this time of the year, Dad would head off to Vivian’s Cafe to add winter weight. According to research reported by Johns Hopkins University, people tend to gain five to seven pounds on average during the winter months.

My father and other farmers of his era thought that it was a good idea to add a little insulation to protect against the cold and to have a few extra pounds to lose in case they became sick.

Wishing for warmer weather

The weather is chilling. My grandmother was fond of saying that such weather chilled her to her bones. That’s chilling.

I grew up in an old farmhouse with a hungry, but inept furnace. Jack Frost held elaborate art shows on my bedroom windows all winter.

I learned that I could wish for warmer weather and my wish would come true as long as I wished long enough.

A real horror movie

Horror movies and horrifying TV series remain popular. I look back on the horror movies of my youth as being more laughable than frightening. The Wolfman, Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster weren’t that scary on the big screen, nor as creepy as today’s zombies.

The scariest movie I saw in my early years was a filmstrip shown in shop class before we undertook woodworking. I think it was called, “Goodbye, finger.”

Nature notes

I saw a coyote near the airport in the Twin Cities. Coyotes are expanding their range. The more they are persecuted, the more they prosper. The one I spotted in the early morning looked big, maybe as much as 40 pounds. It had likely been eating a lot of rodents. A coyote’s coloration allows it to disappear quickly. I’d surprised a coyote walking along a road in Alaska one day. The animal climbed a sheer, rock wall as it were a flat prairie. Sparse vegetation growing from the wall allowed the animal to gain a foothold. It quickly put distance between itself and me. Wile E. Coyote couldn't have done it any better with an Acme rocket strapped to his body. All living things are amazing. The University of South Dakota’s athletic teams are nicknamed the Coyotes. Coyotes are cool. Just ask the 10,038 college students in Vermillion, South Dakota.

The guy from just down the road

My neighbor Crandall stops by.

“How are you doing?” I ask.

“Everything is nearly copacetic. I stopped at the Moose Club.”

“Member?” I say.

“Of course, I remember. I just told you about it. One of the guys there said that he’d seen a bear in northern Minnesota. I remember the first time I saw a bear. I was like Sesame Street’s Big Bird when he first saw the alphabet. He thought it was one long word. I thought the world was one big bear.”

“Have you ever gone bear hunting?” I ask.

“No, but I went Buffalo hunting once. It was back when I drove truck. I left Cleveland with a bad map. I didn’t think I’d ever find Buffalo.”

Naturally

I was there because they couldn’t cure stupid. The best they could do was to sedate it. I was in bed, smiling with a tear in my eye. I had just had surgery and was no longer a free-range hick.

Ruth Lynch of Decorah dropped off a gift for me while I was in Methodist Hospital in Rochester. It was the delightful book, “Audubon’s Birds of America: The National Audubon Society Baby Elephant Folio,“ edited by Roger Tory Peterson and Virginia Marie Peterson. It had all 435 of Audubon’s hand-colored engravings in exquisite reproductions. It was a hernia-inducing sized book.

My nurse said, “You are not to lift this!”

She made one of those “I mean it” faces.

I was under certain restrictions due to the surgery. I was not supposed to lift anything over 10 pounds. My bride had to carry the huge book to the car and then to our house for me. Thank you, Ruth, for your kindness. Thank you, Gail, for carrying my book and my heart.

Back at home, I was pleased that the blue jays in my yard were noisy and the juncos, like many members of the sparrow family, were eating seeds on the ground.

Birdzilla sent me this. From the “Bent Life History” series we have the following description of the blue jay. "The blue jay is a strong, healthy-looking bird, noisy and boisterous. He gives us the impression of being independent, lawless, haughty, even impudent, with a disregard for his neighbors' rights and wishes: like Hotspur, as we meet him in Henry IV, part 1.”

Q-and-A

“How cold is it before monarch butterflies are unable to fly?”

Butterflies are cold-blooded, which means that their body temperatures aren’t self-regulated. A butterfly's body temperature is affected by its surrounding temperatures. Butterflies can fly in temperatures as cool as 55-degrees F, but they must regulate their body temperatures and stay warm by behavioral tactics such as shivering their wings or basking in the sun.

“I listen to your radio show and heard you talking about a vulture urinating on itself. Is that true?”

Turkey vultures sometimes urinate on their legs and feet. This behavior is called urohidrosis (sometimes spelled urohydrosis) and is done in order to cool themselves. When the waste fluids evaporate, they cool the blood vessels in the feet, lowering the bird’s temperature. It’s believed that the high acidity of the urine also destroys bacteria on the legs.

“Where did all the starlings in my yard come from?”

Eggs. Their numbers are high now because the young of this year are part of the flocks. Starlings are nomadic at this time, so they could show up anywhere, including your yard.

“How did buckthorn get its name?”

Common buckthorn got its name from the fact that when buds are opposite they resemble a deer hoof.

Meeting adjourned

Treat everyone with kindness, not because they are nice, but because you are.

Thanks for stopping by

“Understanding the laws of nature does not mean that we are immune to their operations.” — David Gerrold

“Take a good look at yourself before you criticize another, for what you see wrong in them, will also be a lesson for you.” — Leon Brown

DO GOOD.

© Al Batt 2017