Alaska promotes going outside and staying awhile

A Steller’s jay seen in Alaska. The name Steller’s makes this one of the most often misspelled bird names. AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
By : 

“So you’re back?”

“Here I am, I think,” I said in response.

“Why did you go to Alaska?” a friend asked.

“To visit Haines.”

“An underwear factory?”

“No, Haines is a beautiful city and borough in southeast Alaska.”

“What do you go there for if you’re not looking at underwear being made?”

“To see the bald eagles,” I say. 

“You can see them here.”

“True, but the ones I see here aren’t in Haines, Alaska. Haines is a place where when I go outside, I want to stay outside. That’s the way I was as a boy. Haines helps me remember that.”

That said, I have Minnesota between my toes and that suits me.

An Alaska account

The road, tucked between mountains and a river, twisted towards road construction and bald eagles feeding upon spawned-out chum salmon. The natural phenomenon responsible for five miles of open water during freezing months is called an alluvial fan reservoir. Water there remains 10 to 20 degrees warmer than surrounding water. The warmer water percolates into the Chilkat River in Haines, Alaska, and keeps it from freezing.

In 1917, the Territorial Council initiated a bounty on bald eagles, blamed for having a negative effect upon the salmon industry. Beginning at $1 per pair of feet, the bounty was raised to $2. By the time the bounty was discontinued in 1953, over 128,000 eagles had been killed. When Alaska achieved statehood in 1959, the bald eagle became protected under the Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940.

There was a lone bird against the sky. A raven watched as a bald eagle plucked a merganser from water filled with salmon. It apparently had grown weary of eating salmon.

Echoes from Loafers’ Club

Why do I eat too much every Thanksgiving?

Man does not live by bread alone.

What do you do when you’re stuffed completely full of mashed potatoes and gravy, turkey, stuffing, corn and green bean casserole?

I reign in my appetite and eat only three slices of pumpkin pie with whipped cream.

If I eat everything but the broccoli, does it count as cleaning my plate?

Marsha Taylor of Goshen, Ind., told me that she doesn’t like rice. She said that she’s a big girl now and she’s not going to eat rice.

I led a trip to Costa Rica and told the participants it’d be good if they liked rice and beans. If they didn’t like rice and beans, it’d be good if they learned to.

George H. W. Bush said, “I do not like broccoli. And I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm President of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli.”

Marsha’s brother-in-law, who had to clean his plate when he was a boy, demonstrates his maturity by refusing to clean his plate. He always leaves a bit of food. Even at Thanksgiving

A travelogue

Traveling for speaking engagements has helped rid me of barn blindness. That’s an old dairy farmer’s lament, “When you see only your cows, they look pretty good to you.”

I spoke in Brookings, S.D. Every five years, the US Census of Agriculture counts the country's cows. Nine states have more cows than people: Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wyoming. South Dakotans are outnumbered by cattle 4.5 to 1. Nebraska has 3.5 head per Nebraskan. North Dakota has 2.5 head per person, Montana 2.4 and Wyoming 2.3. Iowa is 1.2 and Minnesota .42.

The Gopher State has fewer cows because Minnesotans eat lutefisk, kale and avocado toast instead of beef.

If you suffer from bovinophobia, the excessive fear of cattle, stay out of South Dakota and vacation in these states instead: New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware and Alaska.

The guy from just down the road

My neighbor Crandall stops by.

“How are you doing?” I ask.

“Everything is nearly copacetic. Overall, I’m not too shabby. There are days when I wish I lived some place where I could shovel the snow from my driveway with my hat. Thanksgiving was a good one. I can tell by the weight gain. I was reminded once again that stuffing and green bean salad are what you eat when you run out of mashed potatoes and gravy. I forgot to make a list of things to do today, so I’m feeling listless. That gave me time to think about hunting with my grandfather. Grandpa was a character. He chewed tobacco because it saved on matches. We hunted rabbits without using a gun. I’d dig a hole and he’d drop a rock into it. Then we’d wait until we saw a rabbit. I’d shout and wave my arms at the critter. This scared the bunny enough that it looked for a place to hide. When the rabbit saw that hole, it jumped into it, hit its head on the rock and knocked itself out.” 


November isn’t the favorite color of many. We have an average of 39 percent of possible sunshine in November, our cloudiest month. December, the second cloudiest month, gives us 42 percent. The two months save us money on sunscreen.

Crows gather in flocks to circle the wagons. More eyes make for more effective predator detection.

There is the “Farmers’ Almanac” from Lewiston, Maine, and there is the “Old Farmer’s Almanac” from Dublin, N.H. The two publications are useful and entertaining, and make great gifts. They serve as reminders that I need to get out there and enjoy nature.

Nature notes

“Why do birds have pecking orders?”

A pecking order is more than mere bullying. It’s similar to 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, leading to less predation.

“Are circling vultures a dead giveaway?”

Contrary to popular belief, circling vultures don’t necessarily indicate the presence of a dead animal. Circling vultures may be gaining altitude for long flights, searching for food or frolicking. Vultures soar on thermals of warm, rising air. This allows them to conserve energy. After rising on thermals, they glide as far as possible before needing to flap their wings to regain altitude. They also rely on warm air thermals to remain aloft while searching for food. They aren’t known to circle dying animals, despite being shown circling wounded cowboys in the old TV and movie westerns. Sorry, Marshal Matt Dillon.

Meeting adjourned

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” — G. K. Chesterton

Happy belated Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for you.

Thanks for stopping by

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” — Edith Wharton

“The lost leaves measure our years; they are gone as the days are gone.” — Richard Jefferies.


© Al Batt 2018