Winter can wear both starlings and humans to a frazzle. 
Winter can wear both starlings and humans to a frazzle. AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER

I attended the Cancer Auction in Geneva as I do each year. The venue, Geneva Bar & Grill, was loud and packed. If anything that has to do with cancer could be festive, this was it. 

I was determined to stand. I thought others needed seats more than I did. I stubbornly declined the kind offers of a seat from countless folks

I encountered many friends and renewed old acquaintances. Far more compliments than complaints were exchanged. I spoke with so many cancer survivors, it left me verklempt. These are people who have had many thumbs on the scales.

Verklempt is a useful word of Yiddish origin meaning overcome with emotion. It caused me to hug more than necessary (some folks think that no hug is ever necessary) and to shake the same hands repeatedly.

My wife and I were winning bidders of a plate of chocolate chip cookies during the auction. It was a great purchase for her, as I don’t eat chocolate. As expected, we paid enough that if all chocolate chip cookies sold for that price, we’d all be in the business of baking and selling chocolate chip cookies.

I appreciate the good work and the generosity of the fine people there. That dread disease is somewhat like winter. We brace for the cold and embrace the warmth.

Acorns don’t help a ‘Golf’ game

A real estate agent in England got an unpleasant surprise when he returned home from a five-week vacation. He had trouble shifting his Volkswagen Golf. While cleaning the car before taking it to a repair shop, he found the glovebox full of acorns. Squirrels had used the car to stash acorns for winter. The engine bay and transmission assembly were stuffed with acorns, causing the car to shift improperly. He paid $200 on an invoice that read, "To remove acorns from gearbox linkage housing and dead rat from soundproofing.”

One year, a squirrel tried filling the box of my pickup with walnuts. The animal was dropping the nuts through a vent on the roof. It probably thought the vent was holding a massive amount of walnuts, but they were dropping onto my parked truck.

Birds rest gently on my mind

I heard a great horned owl pair hooting. It was a nifty duet. He said, “I eat skunks.”

She replied, “Me, too.”

Great horned owls do eat skunks.

I saw a pileated woodpecker. It was a male. The male has a red forehead and mustache. Those are black on a female.

I moved through the 13 to 40 inches of hard snow like a snail with rheumatism. I thought of a day years ago when I’d visited an aunt and uncle in Iowa when similar precipitation covered the ground. Their neighbor was feeding the birds with an odd feeder. She’d stuck a plunger handle first in the snow. I was taken with the ingenuity, but hoped the plunger was a new one.

The guy from just down the road

My neighbor Crandall stops by.

“How are you doing?” I ask.

“Everything is nearly copacetic. Scooter got all excited about seeing a beaver in his pond. It was a muskrat. I told him not to mistake a muskrat for someone that builds a dam. Scooter had been employed by a printing company for umpteen years, but they closed the plant he worked at. I went to a job fair with him, but the rides were terrible. Speaking of rides, I remember our school bus driver who always went that extra mile. By the time he let me out of the bus each day, I had to walk a mile just to get back to my driveway. I was over at my sister Cruella’s new home. I hoped to age like a fine wine, but I’m aging like bread. So I was down in the basement using her exercise bike. Now Cruella is smart. She crammed four years of college education into just nine years, but she’s still five-fourths my sister. I was pedaling and sweating when she asked me, ‘How far from home are you? I need to know when to start dinner.’” 

Echoes from Loafers’ Club

I just got a new hearing aid? It was on sale.

What kind is it?

Ten minutes to eight.

Driving by Bruce's

I have a wonderful neighbor named Bruce. Whenever I pass his driveway, thoughts occur to me, such as: I’d been driving on recovering roads. We’d been hit by a winter storm watch/warning/weather event. Watch? It must have been a winter storm grandfather clock. It was the opposite of and more uncomfortable than the steamy Dog Days of summer. We received somewhere between 13 and 40 inches of snow.

We don’t deserve bad weather or good weather, but a snow day was officially my favorite when I was in school. I didn’t mind not riding on a school bus due to my jealousy of the Elite Platinum members who boarded first. The snow left me feeling a bit peckish for hot dishes. If I were to open a restaurant, I’d name it, “Wherever Whatever.” It would be a busy place if many couples are like my wife and me. I ask, “Where would you like to eat?”

She answers, “Wherever.” She tosses a question back at me, “What are you hungry for?”

I answer the traditional way, “Whatever.”

Does this routine happen often? Does the History Channel repeat itself?

Swiss Army Knife was unavailable

I brushed my teeth early in the morning. I was multitasking. Brushing my teeth while attempting to put the cap back onto the tube of toothpaste. I dropped the cap. It bounced off the counter and landed right in the sink’s drain. It was a pitch shot that would have made Tiger Woods proud.

My wife came to the rescue like the cavalry carrying a thin, long-bladed knife that I didn’t know we owned. A young member of the family had a brief career as a knife salesman. Part of his sales pitch was that there was a knife for everything. He might have been right. Obviously, there is a knife to get a toothpaste tube cap out of a sink drain.

Nature notes

A fox barked in my yard. The animal woke me with its sounds. For some odd reason, it gave me goose bumps. They are also called goose pimples or goose flesh, appearing on our skin when we’re cold or frightened. Bumps appear at the base of body hair making it stand up straight. The reflex of producing goose bumps is known as horripilation. The term "goose bumps" likely came from an appearance similar to a plucked goose. Other parts of the world call it hen or chicken flesh and duck or bird skin.

A few snowflakes fell along the edges of the moonlight. Mary Oliver wrote, "Snow was falling, so much like stars filling the dark trees."

I’d be leaving the house in a few hours. Winter here means that proper thought has to be given to clothing choices. There is an old Scandinavian saying, "There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes."

Not only old Scandinavians say this. It’s usually uttered by some smug individual who remembered to wear socks outside in January. My response to this is usually, "How do you dress for a tornado."


“What’s the world's fastest swimming bird?”

The gentoo penguin is the avian gold medalist. It can swim 22 miles per hour. 

“What’s the bird I heard in the old Tarzan movies.”

The voice is that of a kookaburra, a hefty member of the kingfisher family. The calls were ill-suited as the kookaburra is an Australian bird. The bird’s call was a stock background noise. It was in an episode of “The Twilight Zone” and in “The Wizard of Oz,“ a kookaburra can be heard in the forest. It earned the nickname, “Bushman's clock” because of its habit of calling in the morning and evening. Their call sounds like loud, demented laughter. It goes something like this, feel free to sing along, “who-who-who-ah-ah-ah-ah-HA-HA.”

“How do I see a snowy owl?”

Look for one. Snowy owls prefer treeless, open spaces. They often sit on the ground to hunt, so rolling terrain offering a vantage point to survey the surrounding area is to their liking. They perch atop buildings, fence posts, grain elevators, hay bales, utility poles and other places offering good views. I’ve found it easy to turn a white plastic bag into a snowy owl. Snowy owls are seen at MSP Airport every year sometime between Thanksgiving and Easter. It’s tundra to them. How does a snowy decide where to settle down for the winter? It likely has to do with food. Competition might be another factor. Researchers have found most visiting snowy owls healthy, with normal weight and fat reserves. Adult males have a nearly pure white plumage and adult females are white with brown barring. Females are larger than males. Young males resemble adult females, but with more spotting on their flight feathers. Some wintering owls do perish, succumbing to vehicle or plane collisions, rodenticide poisoning, power line electrocution and other hazards unnatural to them. I hope a snowy owl finds you. Good luck.

Meeting adjourned

“Don't wait for people to be friendly, show them how.” —Henry James

Thanks for stopping by

“Don't ever save anything for a special occasion. Being alive is the special occasion.”  — Unknown

“Take a quiet walk with mother nature. It will nurture your mind, body and soul.“ – Anthony Douglas Williams


© Al Batt 2018