‘Twas a fair day to meet people at the fair

Field crickets hatch in spring, and the young crickets eat and grow rapidly. They shed their skin eight or more times before they become adults. AL BATT/NEWS LEADER
By : 
Al Batt
For the Birds

Socrates apparently said that an unexamined life is not worth living. After spending too much time in a hospital and being thoroughly examined, I certainly find life worth living.

I still spend a lot of time trying to get out of my own way. I worked at the Steele County Free Fair. I put new monarch butterflies into children’s hands for release. The smiles on the faces of the kids and their families brought me great happiness. That fair saw an increase in attendance in 2018 to an estimated 313,046 fairgoers. I talked to a lot of good people who brought pleasant memories with them. I had a nice visit with a fairgoer about a TV show I did for years. She told me that her friend had named her puppy after me. I imagined the dog had been a chronic drooler. A friend claims he puts my column on the bottom of a birdcage so his parakeet with the lingering constipation problem would have both an incentive and a target. A former waitress reminded me that I’d had a plate named after me at a cafe. No, it wasn’t full of baloney. A man said he knew the lady from St. Paul who had entered a scarecrow in the State Fair. It was labeled, “Al Batt.” It looked like me and we shared a personality. The scarecrow won first prize in the doofus category.

Back at home, I sat on the deck, returning phone calls and watching moths move about. I remember playing on the softball field bordering a wetland in Geneva. The moths were so numerous some nights that they dimmed the diamond’s lights. Many players and fans referred to them as millers. A miller is a small moth having powdery scales on its wings and is attracted to light. I heard somebody say he had a miller fly up his nose. I had one fly into my ear and its fluttering nearly drove me crazy. The fluttering stopped in a day or so. The moth had died. I wonder what Socrates would have said about an unexamined ear?

Echoes from Loafers’ Club

My wife and I are having an argument. I’m the one that should be mad. She used my toothbrush on the dog’s teeth.

I’ve never won a single argument with my bride.

I’m winless against mine, too. She can remember things that haven’t happened yet.

The guy from just down the road

My neighbor Crandall stops by.

“How are you doing?” I ask.

“Everything is nearly copacetic. The bacon seeds I planted didn’t germinate, but other than that the garden is doing well. My dog is still trying to figure out why vacuum cleaners hate him. I try to save for a rainy day, but my life has been a steady downpour. I listen to the weather report every day. That’s because I enjoy being surprised. Pop claims he can predict the weather by the twinges in his joints. If he feels a twinge, we’ll definitely have weather of some kind. I’ve been a working fool. Work can inspire laziness. I can never be as lazy as I try to be. On a hot day, I caught a fried fish on Lake Inferior. I finally finished reading ’War and Peace.’”

“Impressive,” I add.

“Not really. I just read the peace parts. There was a nice turnout for Barney’s funeral.”

“Yes, there was,” I say. “He had the world’s 437th largest ball of twine. I’ll miss him. At least he died surrounded by loved ones.”

“I read the obituaries. Being surrounded by loved ones kills a lot of people.”


The rain tapped on the leaves. Everything was as right as rain. There was no thunder and lightning. On average, approximately 44,000 thunderstorms occur each day.

The mosquitoes had disappeared. I didn’t miss them. I’ve heard of BuzzFeed, but to me, that’s a biting mosquito.

The sun came out, turning a world covered in raindrops into jewels. I wanted to adopt the habit of a bee and visit each and every flower. I walked on so many acorns it felt as if I were walking on ball bearings.

The sultry part of summer, the Dog Days, are supposed to occur during the period that Sirius, the Dog Star, rises with the sun — from July 3 to Aug. 11. For every fog in August, there will be a snowfall, they say.

Goldenrod and ragweed bloom. Ragweed is the culprit that torments allergy sufferers. We got some new siding on the house. A monarch butterfly caterpillar picked it to form a chrysalis. It looks lovely.

Soon skunks and raccoons will be digging in the lawn in search of grubs for grub. I spotted a red fox. A red fox has black legs, black-tipped ears and a white-tipped tail. A grey fox has a black tipped tail and a black stripe down its back.

Sad crickets sang to “chirrup” others. I saw a Cooper’s hawk with a distinctive long, rounded tail with thick bands. A chimney swift chattered overhead on flickering wings. It was a short body propelled by long, slim wings. Turkey vultures were waiting for the morning’s rush hour to end and for the heat to arrive before flying. Wild turkeys strolled by. A turkey can run 25 mph and fly 55 mph.

A Eurasian collared-dove called. This species was introduced into the Bahamas in 1974, spread to Florida in 1982 and was first seen in Minnesota in 1998. A flock of starlings landed on utility wires. In the early 1890s, about 100 European starlings were released in New York City's Central Park by a group dedicated to bringing every bird mentioned by Shakespeare to America. Today, there are about 200 million starlings in North America.

I visited Freeborn Lake, which is being drawn down. Wilson’s phalaropes were spinning in the water, creating tiny whirlpools that drew prey upward. Some sources claim each phalarope spins in only one direction, but I’m not so sure. Phalaropes exhibit role reversal. The females are more colorful and pursue the males that create the nests and incubate the eggs.

A friend recommended the book “Penguin the Magpie: The Odd Little Bird Who Saved a Family.” I’m glad he did. It’s a book that buoys the spirit as did the books “Arnie the Darling Starling” and “That Quail Robert.”

Thanks for stopping by

“In summer, the song sings itself.”  ― William Carlos Williams

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” — John Muir


Meeting adjourned

Allow others to be kind to you.

© Al Batt 2018