Al Batt: Visiting bridges of Madison County better than book or movie

AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER I watched an eastern kingbird attack a bald eagle.

AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER An uneven molt gives a blue jay a different look.
By : 
Al Batt
For the Birds

I visited Madison County in Iowa. John Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison in Winterset. I visited the Museum bearing his name. The Duke said, “I would like to be remembered, well, the Mexicans have a phrase, 'Feo fuerte y formal.' Which means he was ugly, strong and had dignity.” 

I ate John Wayne chili that was mostly beef with no beans at the Northside Cafe.

The bestselling book, "The Bridges of Madison County" by Iowa-born author Robert James Waller was made into a film starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep. I hate to ruin a beautiful moment by picking favorites, but I enjoyed the six covered bridges of Madison County more than either the book or the movie.

Echoes from Loafers' Club

I'm on one of those diets where I can eat all the beets I want.

How's that going for you?

I've already eaten all the beets I want to eat.

Happy anniversary to my bride

I worked at the Steele County Free Fair as I do each year. The fair had an attendance of 322,347 this year, up from 313,347 in 2018. There were over 100 food vendors. I was pleased to walk the fairgrounds without incurring injury.

I'd recently lost a bit of flesh on my shin. It was due to a minor accident while cutting down a tree at home. The tree bit me. It wasn't a frameable moment. The injury was slow in mending because I kept bumping it. Time wounds all heals. It was a trauma tattoo. Scars and stories begin with bad ideas.

I'm a man. We have many bad ideas. We have fewer good ideas, but we do have them. My best idea was marrying Gail. Happy anniversary to the best part of me. It has been a wonderful 50-year conversation seasoned with magic. The only secret I can share with others is to boast about your spouse.

In local news

See Food Restaurant opens. This week's special: All the food you can look at for $3.

Volunteers are sprucing up the town. Ash trees are being replaced with spruce.

The Jigsaw Puzzle Solvers' Club tries to find a pieceful solution.

Nature notes

I meandered past some boxelder trees. Sometimes called an ash-leafed maple or a Manitoba maple, the trees produce winged seeds called samaras that mature in late summer. A boxelder is the hypochondriac of trees. It appears to be dying, but never gets around to it. 

Jerusalem artichokes showed yellow flowers. It’s a native, perennial sunflower. We don’t have kudzu here — wild cucumber, wild grapes and Virginia creeper do its kind of work.

Riverbank grape (wild grape) is a native perennial with a possible 75-foot vine and Virginia creeper is another native perennial with a vine reaching up to 90 feet in length. They are kinder than kudzu, which has a perennial vine reaching 100 feet. A native to Asia, it was introduced to this country to prevent soil erosion, feed cattle and shade porches. Once established, it can grow 60 feet in a growing season.

A turkey vulture soared overhead, likely attracted to the dead skunk on the road. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology said this about a bird often incorrectly called a “buzzard”: “They are deft foragers, targeting the softest bits first and are even known to leave aside the scent glands of dead skunks.“ 


I sat on the deck and watched on a late August evening. Psalms reminds me to be still and know. A field cricket, nearly as black as a crow, moved past me. The sky over the yard was filled with hunters. Dragonflies flew the lowest, then swallows and common nighthawks took the highest sky road. What brought these mighty Nimrods to my neck of the woods? In the Bible, Nimrod was a mighty hunter. They were feasting upon swarms of what I've heard referred to as flying plankton — ant swarms. 

A vulture performed a feeding frenzy of its own on a raccoon carcass on the road. In my boyhood, my family had a five-second rule. If we dropped something on the floor, we could still eat it if we picked it up within five seconds. Turkey vultures adhere to the five-day rule.

Chipping sparrows were nesting. They could have a couple of broods per year. This tiny sparrow weighs 11 to 16 grams. Items weighing approximately one gram include a regular paperclip, a dollar bill, a raisin or a thumbtack.

I watched a hummingbird visit multiple flowers of jewelweed at a hectic pace, lapping up all the calories it could. I've read that when scaled to the size of a human, a hummingbird would need to take in 155,000 calories daily. Jewelweed or touch-me-not has juicy stems that when crushed may serve to relieve the itch of poison ivy and stinging nettle for some. The fruits explode to eject the seeds in a distribution mode called ballistic dispersal.

In case we have a winter again this year

A woman in Henderson told me that if the first week in August is unusually warm, the coming winter will be snowy and long. Her grandfather had taught her that.

The Farmers' Almanac is predicting a frigid and snowy winter with above-normal snow. The coldest period will be the last week of January through the beginning of February.

The Old Farmer's Almanac forecasts temperatures above-normal with near- to above-normal snowfall. The coldest periods will be in early and mid-January, in late January into early February, in late February, and in early and mid- to late March. The snowiest periods will be in early and mid-January, early February, and early and mid-March. 

From the mailbag

A Harmony reader mentioned my reference to the American kestrel being a secondary cavity-nester and wondered what that meant. A kestrel is one of the species that takes advantage of natural or abandoned cavities, or obtains them by aggressive intrusion. They may make no substantial modifications to the cavities.
  Larry Iverson of Rochester asked if painted ladies were migrating now. There is a plethora of painted ladies. The second brood of these butterflies migrates south beginning in August and continuing through November. They overwinter in the southwestern United States and in northern Mexico. They migrate north in the spring in most years, temporarily repopulating the United States and Canada. Some years they don't migrate at all. In rainy years on their wintering grounds, the northward migrations can be enormous. 

Meeting adjourned

“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.” – Amelia Earhart

Thanks for stopping by

"Anyone who proposes to do good must not expect people to roll stones out of his way, but must accept his lot calmly, even if they roll a few stones upon it." — Albert Schweitzer

"We interact with nature whether we want to or not, so we might as well want to." — Al Batt

Do good.

©Al Batt 2019