Al Batt: At the meeting of the minds, at least my zipper was up

Gunnar Berg of Albert Lea shared this photo of an American Redstart.
By : 
Al Batt
For the Birds

I spend a considerable amount of time in meetings. Meetings are important. They keep the world from accomplishing too many things. Funny things happen at meetings. Minutes are generally kept. A friend of mine turned in the minutes that she had kept of one meeting that indicated everyone received a plague. It should have been a plaque, but plague sounded as if it were a part of a more interesting, if fatal, meeting.

I sat at a large table during a board meeting. I was wearing new pants. I’d had a dramatic weight loss and needed new pants. Some of the weight loss must have been brain cells. My new trousers had a lengthy sticker I'd neglected to remove running vertically on one leg, which indicated size and other such things. I noticed the exceedingly apparent presence of the sticker after the meeting had been going for some time. So did the fellow seated next to me. He looked at the sticker. I smiled and said, ”New pants.”

Echoes from Loafers' Club

I just purchased a new cellphone. The salesman said everyone who bought one swears by it.

How's it working for you?

I think he meant to say everyone who bought one swears at it.

Driving by Bruce's drive

I have a wonderful neighbor named Bruce. Whenever I pass his driveway, thoughts occur to me, such as: We'd had some good grub at the Happy Chef Restaurant in Mankato. Coming out of that eatery, I turned right. My wife said, “The car is this way,” and made a left turn, walking towards the vehicle. 

I walked alone as the character played by Gary Cooper did in the movie, “High Noon.”

The first Happy Chef Restaurant opened in 1963 in Mankato and still operates today. An iconic 36-foot tall, bow-legged Happy Chef statue stands out front and it speaks while waving a giant spoon. Its motion-activated voice says 55 different phrases. The Chef told me, “I've been holding up this spoon since 1968. My arm sure is getting tired." As I turned around to join my bride in the car, he said, "Hey, I can see your house from here."

I walked to the car thinking the statue was a liar.

I like walking. Many folks are on a 10,000 steps per day regime. I watched chipmunks scurry about our yard. They likely find 10,000 steps to be no challenge. Having four legs causes their steps to add up twice as fast as mine.

Nature notes

I was awakened at daybreak by drumming woodpeckers. It was a more pleasant way to join the world than by hearing a strident alarm clock.

A skunk had met its demise on the road not far from my front door. The fetid smell assailed my olfactory sense. I took a deep breath and chipped a tooth. It loves to wander, but my mind was prepared to wonder. I saw flying dandelions. I didn’t see as many of those goldfinches in my yard this winter as I do most years. I welcomed their brightened plumage.

I took some photos. I reminded myself that cameras are to take bad photos as well as good ones. I took a long walk on the Blazing Star Trail in Albert Lea. A kinglet posed patiently and perfectly for this flawed photographer. For that and other things, I am most grateful.

I watched a fox squirrel eat the buds of a tree and what looked like the larvae of some insect. A turkey vulture soared overhead in a shallow V. V for vulture. A brown thrasher graced my yard. It chairs a gardener’s support group. A mnemonic for its melodious song in which it repeats itself as men tend to do is, “Plant a seed, plant a seed; bury it, bury it; cover it up, cover it up; let it grow, let it grow; pull it up, pull it up; eat it, eat it.”

I heard Bishop Steven Delzer read one of my favorite poems by Mary Oliver. “Meadowlark, when you sing it’s as if You lay your yellow breast upon mine and say Hello, hello, and are we not Of one family, in our delight of life? You sing, I listen. Both are necessary If the world is to continue going around Night-heavy then light-laden, though not Everyone knows this or at least Not yet, Or, perhaps, has forgotten it In the torn fields, In the terrible debris of progress.”

Not long after hearing that fine bit of poetry, I heard a meadowlark sing. A meadowlark’s song is a banquet for my ears.


I watched a red-tailed hawk kiting into the wind. It had nothing to do with a check-kiting scheme. The wind allowed the raptor to hover while hunting. This hawk preys primarily on mammals.

The yard birds come and go. They are not to be confused with the Yardbirds, a rock band, whose hits included "For Your Love" and "Heart Full of Soul." But, let’s get back to my yard birds. Bird migrations carry magic and wonder in their feathers. Spring migrations are more colorful as birds wear breeding plumages. Fall migration has more birds with the young birds included. The new birds are more likely to take a wrong turn and end up where they aren't supposed to be, much to the delight of a birder.

The world is in technicolor and most birds are breath-stopping beauties, but the loveliness of some of the warblers makes for feathered jewels. I recall being a boy toiling the farm fields on a tractor without a cab one spring day. The weather had been good and bad. A little rain, some wind and then sun. I brought the tractor to a stop at the edge of a woods. I grabbed my poor man's lunch pail (a bread wrapper) and climbed onto a low hanging branch of a lofty tree to enjoy a couple of bologna and Velveeta sandwiches and a like number of sugar cookies. As I munched away, I heard the chirps of birds. I looked up to see branches covered in American redstarts drooping wings and fanning tails in order to flush insect prey from vegetation. The males flashed orange and black, while the females, nicknamed yellowstarts by some birders, showed yellow and gray. The large number of dancing warblers made me say "Wow" more than once. Their presence made for the best of dinner entertainment. I watched the warblers for exactly too long when I should have been working. As I resumed work, I wished the tractor offered a warbler floor show, too.

Spring may have sprung. My winter coat has been put away, the land smells of spring, the whole world seems to be chirping and a visit to an ice cream shop doesn't sound like an insane idea.

Birds have to deal with the weather. Everything does. For the Great Lakes, Ohio Valley and Midwest, the "Farmers’ Almanac" predicts heat and humidity will build in June and July will be stormy and warm. A stormy summer is on tap for the region overall. Severe weather may rumble through in late July.
  Time is fleeting. It seems as if the juncos had just arrived and now, they have left. I'll miss the lovely, little birds. Dark-eyed juncos do nest in northeastern and north central Minnesota.


Karen Wright of Mankato asked how to tell whether a bumblebee is a queen.

Queens are larger than bumblebee workers. Nearly all bumblebees seen early in the spring will be queens.

“I’ve seen murmurations of starlings. How do birds in those flocks keep from colliding with other birds?”

I am mesmerized by those pulsating clouds of birds swirling through the sky. Princeton University researchers have revealed a key behind this magic. It's the number seven. Starlings coordinate movement with their seven nearest neighbors and they do so gracefully and safely.

"Why does a cow chew its cud?"

Compared to cows, humans have a simple stomach, a pouch-like structure containing glands which secrete digestive enzymes. Forage-consuming species called ruminants, such as cattle, consume large amounts of fibrous material. The four compartments of a ruminant's stomach are the rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum. The rumen, the largest of the four, is where the food is collected and fermented by microorganisms. In order to digest roughage efficiently, it must be in small pieces. Cattle re-chew their food several times to make it smaller. When cattle ruminate or chew their cud, they have regurgitated partly digested feed from the rumen. No matter how hard they try, cows are unable to blow bubbles with their cuds, but stubbornly refuse to give bubblegum a try.

Thanks for stopping by

“I would rather be able to appreciate things I cannot have than to have things I am not able to appreciate.” — Elbert Hubbard

"A sense of humor is needed armor. Joy in one's heart and some laughter on one's lips is a sign that the person down deep has a pretty good grasp of life." — Hugh Sidey

Meeting adjourned

Every drop of water shapes a stone. Be kind.


© Al Batt 2019