The rusty blackbird is a medium-sized blackbird, closely related to grackles. It is a bird that prefers wet forested areas, breeding in the boreal forest and muskeg across northern Canada, and migrating southeast to the United States during winter.
The rusty blackbird is a medium-sized blackbird, closely related to grackles. It is a bird that prefers wet forested areas, breeding in the boreal forest and muskeg across northern Canada, and migrating southeast to the United States during winter. AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER

I sang, “Grandma got run over by a turkey.”

I sang it to myself due to popular demand. Thanksgiving is a great day even if we do nothing else but eat. It’s when gravy covers a multitude of sins and just like a NASCAR race, all foods need to travel in the same direction around the course — in this case, a table.

Football has become such an important part of this wonderful day that the ideal fitment would be a combination dining table and big screen TV. I recall fondly the year I was able to stay awake for an entire game. It was an amazing feat as besides the normal sleep-inducing segments of the game (with its 11 minutes of actual action) and the accompanying commercials, a plate of food the size of a small shed had been placed in front of me. When I asked which way I should pass the food, I was told I wasn’t to pass it. It was all for me. Despite the copious quantities of food and a game that could have been a taped rerun from the year before, I maintained consciousness.

Thanksgiving is noted for its invasion of the big birds. It’s when we eat defenseless pumpkins and cooked carrots smell good to kids. It’s when it isn’t easy to get a piece of cake, but getting a piece of pie is a piece of cake. We always have enough food to feed Coxey’s Army. Coxey's Army was a protest march by unemployed workers, led by Ohio businessman Jacob Coxey. They marched on Washington, D.C., in 1894, during an economic depression. The expression "Enough food to feed Coxey's Army" originated from this march and referenced the abundance of food needed to feed the large number of protestors.

Because of the vast quantities of food prepared, Thanksgiving and leftovers go hand in hand. Halloween should follow Thanksgiving. That way, it would be easier to get rid of the leftovers.

As I sat in clothes that had attracted gravy stains, I reflected upon another Thanksgiving. I’m grateful for many things — almost everything. I’m thankful turkey smoothies aren’t a reality in my life. I’m thankful I know so many kind people who have enhanced my existence.

I wish each of you an ample sufficiency not only on Thanksgiving, but also on all other days. On a day when I realize that many people would love to own my disappointments, I’m grateful for one more day — a day that wasn’t guaranteed, but was granted. For that, I’m most grateful.

Echoes From Loafers Club

You’ve put on some weight, haven’t you?

I have.

How much?

A little over 189 pounds since the day I was born.

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: A car ahead of me blew through a stop sign. I figured the driver didn’t read sign language. That night, a car came at me with its bright lights blazing. I resisted the temptation to flash my brights in retaliation at the oncoming vehicle. I reckoned it was bad enough that there was one blind fool on the road. It didn’t need two.

Nature notes

Two bald eagles, each in its own pet carrier, were moved to a site not far from the Chilkat River near Haines, Alaska. It was a frigid November day and folks were dressed appropriately. Many people had gathered to see the release of two rehabilitated eagles. The eagles were stars. It was hard not to take a photo of someone taking a photo. To me, it was as if the world had been wrapped in bacon. That’s a good thing for a man who loves bacon. It was a perfect time and it got even better. My wife had the honor of releasing one of the eagles. She did her job well. When the eagle flew, the applause was loud, easily overcoming the handicap of gloves and mittens. My heart flew with the eagle and danced with my wife’s smile.

Love finds happiness in the happiness of others. It wasn’t all that long ago when I saw no eagles. They were ghosts.

Francois de La Rochefoucauld said, "True love is like ghosts, which everyone talks about and few have seen."

I’m a lucky man. I’ve seen it.

The guy from down the road 

My neighbor Crandall stops by.

“How are you doing?” I ask.

“Everything is nearly copacetic. I ran out of shaving cream this morning and used peanut butter as a replacement. It worked, but I felt nutty using it. I was also out of conditioner, so I used peanut butter on my hair, too. Just call me Skippy. I remember when we were in the second grade and Mrs. Demmer asked us to describe ourselves in three words and you wrote, ‘I can’t do that.’ You were wordy and bad at math even then. My favorite pizza shop is one that never puts pineapple on my pizza. I’m so serious about losing a few pounds that I’ve given up delivery pizza. From now on, it’s all takeout for me. When I delivered pizza, a man gave me a $100 tip. I was sure he didn’t mean to. I’ll admit that I was tempted. I almost told him about it. We had a vegan Thanksgiving this year, but it didn't help. The relatives still showed up. Even so, it was the best Thanksgiving ever. Pop wore pants.”


I was pleased to see rusty blackbirds in my yard. This blackbird, with its distinctive rusty feathers (in non-breeding plumage) and yellow eyes is one of North America’s bird species declining most rapidly, with its population dropping more than 80 percent over the past 40 years. Scientists are unsure as to the cause of this reduction, but the loss of habitat is suspected. Rusty blackbirds are denizens of coniferous forests with lakes and bogs, breeding in the northern muskeg region and wintering in the eastern U.S. where they form small flocks.

Michelle May, who lives near St. Clair, spotted a short-eared owl on the ground this fall. A friend, the late Charles Flugum, wrote a wonderful book titled, “Birding From a Tractor Seat.” That’s what Michelle was doing. This owl is a stunner, with black-rimmed yellow eyes staring out from a pale facial disk. Look for these owls in open fields or grasslands near dawn and dusk. They might be on the ground or hunting while flying silently and low on buoyant, floppy wingbeats, looking much like a giant moth.


“Why do birds have pecking orders?”

A pecking order is more than mere bullying. It’s not unlike a corporation’s organizational chart. With age and experience comes the benefit of enhanced feeding and roosting opportunities. A bird at the top of the pecking order gets a better parking place, just as a CEO does. Research has shown that dominant birds forage in safer locations and roost in more secure areas. This leads to less predation.

“I have cardinals that nest in my yard, but none of them are here in the winter. My neighbor has a flock of them in his yard during the winter. Why him and not me?”

It’s because they have always liked him best. Cardinals join flocks during the non-breeding season. The flocks are temporary groups with a composition that changes frequently. This aggregation happens because a cardinal’s strong territorial instinct lessens in the winter. Cardinals eat the same foods and seek the same winter shelter, so it makes sense they would congregate. As a group of cardinals moves about, its activities attract other redbirds. Research has shown flock size to increase as temperatures fall. Approximately 60 percent of adult cardinals survive from one year to the next. Most of the mortality occurs during the winter. The cardinals hang around your neighbor’s place because the shelter and food found there meets their needs. Water and tradition might play a part, too.

Meeting adjourned

"If people were kinder, they would be happier. If they were happier, more people would be kindly. If more people were happy, the world would be kinder." — June Callwood

Thanks for stopping by

“‘Thank you’ is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.“ — Alice Walker

"I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual." — Henry David Thoreau

 “I appreciate you.” — Al Batt


© Al Batt 2017