Al Batt: Sneezing in triplicate brings out Minnesota nice

AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER I miss these guys. The Baltimore oriole is a small icterid blackbird common in eastern North America as a migratory breeding bird. It received its name from the resemblance of the male's colors to those on the coat-of-arms of Lord Baltimore.

AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER Woolly worm, or woolly bear caterpillars, could be a predictor of a mild or severe winter based on the width of its brown band.
By : 
Al Batt
For the Birds

The day was long-winded. The wind blew steadily and it rained intermittently on a cool day. Temporary wetlands haven't been temporary this year.

Our weather isn't always nice, but is there truly such a thing as Minnesota nice or Iowa nice?

I sneezed three times at a gathering. I don't know why I have to sneeze three times when I sneeze, but it seems to be the minimum requirement.

My early warning system had worked and had notified me that sneezes were on the way. I didn't need to do something like sneezing into my elbow as I had a handkerchief ready to go to work. That was OK as I was wearing a short-sleeved shirt.

Three sneezes. Each sneeze was followed by someone saying, "Bless you."

That was nice.

People are willing to go the extra mile to say, "Bless you," "Gesundheit," or "Incoming."

That is nice. 

Echoes from Loafers' Club

What are you reading?

I'm taking a personality quiz. How would you answer this 
question? Describe yourself in three words.


The lav report  

When I needed to go to the bathroom when I was in the second grade (I'm not sure I'd gone in the first grade as I was a late bloomer), I'd raise my hand and say, "Mrs. Demmer, may I go to the lavatory." I'd already learned that "Can I go to the lavatory" resulted in more correction than relief. The lavatory was the restroom. Most people don't call their home bathroom a lavatory.

When away from adults, I called it a "lavoratory," because that's how I thought Boris Karloff, the actor who played creepy characters in scary films, would say it. I tickled myself.

We've never had a grade school reunion or a riders of a certain school bus reunion. More's the pity. Perhaps we could take an uncomfortable bus ride before asking to use the lavatory.

Math was involved  

I wandered into a casino. I'd been told the food was good and the variety outstanding. I came to eat, not to gamble. There's too much math involved in gambling. I get enough math trying to figure out appropriate tips. 

From the mailbag

Del Begalka of Mankato wrote, "In your recent column you mentioned stalactites and stalagmites. The mites go up and the tights go down. What they call a column in a cave where the two meet is a mightytite." 

Rachel Miller of Henderson sent this on the same subject: "I was always taught that stalactites hang tight to the ceiling and stalagmites use all of their might to push up from the ground!"

Ask Al

"Do you have any advice for a new bride?"

It's certainly not my field of expertise, but I'll take a shot. If you have a complaint about your husband, share it with his mother not your mother. His will forgive him.

"Do you and your wife finish one another's sentences?" 

Yes, sometimes with something the original sentence maker was planning on saying.

"What is the cause of most concussions in football?" 


Nature by the yard

A ruby-throated hummingbird got all up into my face. It hovered close to my nose. I read its actions as an indication the feeder needed filling, which it did, but the tiny bird might have been thinking I was a doofus flower.

I filled the feeder as the hummer buzzed around me on the deck, impressing me with the flying ability of a creature weighing a dime or two.

It was likely a young bird. Mature males are the first to head south, followed by the females. The immature birds are the last to migrate. An adult male ruby-throated hummingbird has a forked tail and dark tail feathers with no white tips. A young male or female has white tips on the outer three rectrices (large feathers used for steering and braking) on each side of its fan-shaped tail. 

A few robins found the yard's birdbath. One bathed while the others drank. Zigzag goldenrod grew on crooked stems and provided a celebration of yellow flowers.

House sparrows chirped cheerfully. I find them well worth my attention and hoped it meant they were experiencing joy. I saw some of these spatzies in a large, home improvement store. They are ingenious birds that have learned the highly specialized skill of opening automatic doors by fluttering in the right spot to activate electric-eye sensors.

I saw my first dark-eyed junco on Oct. 5. Will it be six weeks until the first trackable snow?


"What is digging up the grass on my lawn?"

Raccoons and skunks dig into lawns in search of grubs. Raccoons do the most damage and roll back sod in their quest. Skunks are more likely to tear clumps out of the grass.

"How long do young great horned owls stay with their parents after they've left the nest?”

Owlets move onto nearby branches when they are six weeks old and are capable of short flights at seven weeks. Fledglings remain close to parents for several weeks and thereafter in a loose association. Owlets often roost together in the same tree while the adults generally roost away from their young. The youngsters react to the sight of the adults with begging calls and flights towards the adults. Young owls remain near their parents throughout most of the summer and may beg for food into October, four to five months after leaving the nest.

"What is Indian summer?"

It's a short period of above normal temperatures occurring on sunny, calm and hazy days following fall's first frost.

"What bird is the fastest runner?"

Despite educational cartoons featuring Wile E. Coyote, it isn't the roadrunner. The ostrich has been clocked at 43 mph, the roadrunner at 20.

"Do blue jays migrate?"

Less than 20% of their population is believed to be migratory.

'Tis the season

1. Soups sound like the perfect meal every day.

2. The first deer rubs on trees show up around the middle of October. Rubs are continually made and refreshed throughout November. Deer scrapes made in the ground with hooves can be observed earlier, but become common during the last couple weeks of October and increase in frequency into November.

3. Woolly bear caterpillars (woolly worms) crawl across roads. Folklore maintains that the wider the rusty brown band on a caterpillar, the milder the coming winter will be. The narrower that band is, the more severe the winter will be. 

4. Someone will swear he isn't turning on the furnace until he has a numbness in his extremities.

5. Migrating birds include turkey vultures, sandhill cranes, common loons, white-throated sparrows, and yellow-rumped warblers (butter butts). 

6. People will channel the flannel.

7. Buckthorn stubbornly hangs onto its leaves.

Meeting adjourned

Be kind and look to your own faults before searching for them in another.

Mange takk

All the appreciation I could muster goes out to the fine folks who gathered at the Preston Public Library for my presentation.

Thanks for stopping by

"There are few things in this world which it is worthwhile to get angry about, and they are just the things anger will not improve." – Henry Jarvis Raymond 

"Why should man value himself as more than a small part of the one great unit of creation? And what creature of all that the Lord has taken the pains to make is not essential to the completeness of that unit — the cosmos? The universe would be incomplete without man; but it would also be incomplete without the smallest transmicroscopic creature that dwells beyond our conceitful eyes and knowledge." — John Muir 

Do good.

 ©Al Batt 2019