Archived Story

Breakfast food for thought

Published 9:29am Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Column: Tales from Exit 22

I was a boy who enjoyed a hearty breakfast. A cereal was part of that breakfast. Cheerios was one of the cereals I favored. Even the holes were delicious.

I read the back of cereal boxes every morning. There was a lot of information on the back of a cereal box. I enjoyed reading about things like riboflavin.

The Cheerios Kid was on some of those boxes. He would tell us kids to do things. One box directed, “Let’s welcome Kimo’s home state to the other great states. Make this handsome map of Alaska. Just cut out the pieces on the back and side, and put them together to make a puzzle map like this.”

“This” was a colorful map of Alaska to hang in my room. I put my mother’s good scissors to use.

Not much later, my father suggested that I refrain from cutting up cereal boxes until they had no more cereal in them.

That’s how they roll

After a couple of days on the road, I noticed how many drivers rolled through stop signs. These drivers needed to get themselves a very old pickup.

We had an idle 1937 pickup. It was rusty enough that I needed a tetanus shot after driving it. I had the harebrained idea that it would make a proper chariot.

I rebuilt the carburetor and patched the spare tire. There was no place to put the spare tire other than in the box of the truck. Not anchored in place, it was a free-range spare tire. It slid about the box. That was a good thing. I knew that when I heard the thump of the tire hitting the front of the box, I had come to a complete stop.

The child within

I thought I was an adult. I was married and a father. Everyone I knew called me “Al.” That is except for my mother. She called me “Allen.” She had named me and she liked the name.

I thought I was an Al and tried to act like one, but my mother could see right through me to Allen.

One day, I had my nose buried in a book. A common pose for me. It was during my 30th year of life. My mother saw me and said to another, “Allen has always been able to amuse himself.”

The child lives within us. It is bigger than our adult form because the child always shows through.

My three Helens

I had three Aunt Helens from Iowa. No, they weren’t sisters.

My father’s sister lived on a farm near Whittemore. My mother’s sister lived in Algona.

My father’s brother married a Helen, and they resided in Boone. They were all lovely ladies but having three Aunt Helens caused some problems for me. I had the tendency to call any woman of my mother’s age “Helen.”


I went to the License Center to renew my driver’s license. There was a line, but it didn’t bother me. I was basking in the glow of the fact that I hadn’t waited until the last day to renew the license, as is my custom.

I filled out a form, wrote a check and passed the eye exam. I don’t need to wear eyeglasses for driving, but I do need prescribed cheaters for reading.

I put on my reading glasses (sounds better than “bifocals”) in the morning and leave them on all day. I have learned that if I don’t keep them in front of my eyes, I quickly misplace them. Even though I’m not required to wear eyeglasses while operating a motor vehicle, I wore them when I had my photo taken for my driver’s license.

I know that the photo on my license will not resemble me in any way. No driver’s license photo looks like the owner of the license. Some being from another dimension jumps in front of us the minute the camera blinks.

I digress. I had my photo taken wearing eyeglasses. This was the first time my license photo will depict a bespectacled me. It’s another milepost on life’s road.

Not for sale

The man showed me an old jukebox he had hidden away in a corner of his farmhouse. I asked him if he ever played it.

“Naw, not for many years,” he responded.

“You could probably get a nice price if you were to sell it,” I said.

“I don’t see me selling it,” he replied. “It doesn’t eat anything.”

Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Sunday and Wednesday.