Regular guy Al Batt has anything but a regular job

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 15, 2006

By Ed Shannon, staff writer

HARTLAND &8212; There are several facets to consider with a Freeborn County resident named Al Batt.

One is based on his literary and humorous contributions to various publications and even comic strips. Another is based on his appearances as the speaker at various places and on several radio and television programs. And still another is his known reputation as a tour guide and as an expert on wildlife in general and bird life in particular.

Email newsletter signup

Batt and his wife Gail live in a rural home on County Road 35 (325th Street) between Hartland and a former village named Bath. He has been known to call this place the &8220;Batt Cave.&8221; This is a mile north of the farm where he grew up.

&8220;We lived on a gravel rood. There wasn&8217;t much traffic back then. Whatever went by our place was either a neighbor or someone who was lost,&8221; he said.

This future writer and speaker graduated from New Richland-Hartland High School in 1967.

&8220;We always thought it should have been Hartland-New Richland,&8221; he said.

Batt attended the University of Minnesota and later Mankato State University where he graduated in 1972.

Up to 10 years ago he was involved with insurance sales and as a supervisor.

Despite a listing in a telephone book which indicates he still has an insurance agency, Batt said, &8220;I (now) make a living as a writer and speaker.&8221;

The nostalgic memories, short commentaries on life events, and homespun humor by Batt have been appearing in a variety of publications.

One of his favorite destinations for free lance submissions is Reiman Media Group of Greendale, Wis. This firm publishes several magazines including &8220;Reminisce&8221; and &8220;Reminisce Extra,&8221; &8220;Birds and Blooms&8221; and &8220;Country.&8221;

One his most recent contributions printed in Reminisce, the magazine that brings back the good times, was in the May/June issue. This example of his talent as a story teller was based on proposed initiation rites for a boys-only club in the Hartland area and a possible encounter with a bully named &8220;Monster McGurk.

Batt&8217;s columns appear twice weekly in the Tribune. For the Wednesday issues its &8220;Tales from Exit 22.&8221; This title is based on Exit 22 on Interstate 35 which goes a short distance east to Geneva and even further west on County Road 35 to Hartland. The second is &8220;Nature&8217;s World&8221; in the Lifestyles section of the Sunday editions. He confirmed that this column perpetuates the title once used by the late Maude Koevenig for her Tribune commentaries.

His reflections on life in a rural area have appeared at various times as part of the Bulletin Board section in the St. Paul Pioneer Press with the notation of being from Al B. of Hartland.

Other publications where the observations by Batt have, and are appearing, include the Kiester Courier-Sentinel, New Richland Star, Austin Herald, Bird Watchers Digest, Wild Bird, Loon, New Yorker and Country Today.

&8220;I write anytime,&8221; he said.

Batt has written columns for Minnesota Birding and Nature Scapes, plus contributions for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series of books, and a book about Minnesota Bird Watching.

Still; another facet of Batt&8217;s literary life is based on his involvement with several cartoon series and newspaper comic strips.

&8220;I can&8217;t draw a lick. What I do is come up with the narratives and ideas for scenes and let someone else do the art,&8221; he explained.

Some of the comic strips and cartoon series he lists are &8220;Dennis the Menace,&8221; &8220;Frank and Ernest,&8221; &8220;Marmaduke (the dog),&8221; &8220;Lock Horns,&8221; a new strip named &8220;Baldo,&8221; and &8220;Laugh Parade&8221; in the Parade supplement. In fact, his unique role as an &8220;idea person&8221; for cartoonists was featured in a 1995 issue of Smithsonian magazine.

As a speaker, Al Batt as been on the programs of various area events and meetings with his special style of easy humor and Upper Midwest type of observations of life.

Beyond this area, he&8217;s been the speaker at conventions Batt says range &8220;from Texas to Alaska and New Jersey to Nevada and Utah.&8221;

This man many know as a bird watcher and expert has a distinctive easy-to-listen-to voice which can be heard on KSMU and KTOE on Mankato, and on KATE right after 1 p.m. on Fridays with Steve Oman. As a host of several televised programs on KSMQ in Austin he can be both seen and heard.

&8220;Not having a regular job, I get to meet a lot of nice folks,&8221; he said.

And one of those ways to meet those other folks is as a tour guide with the people he escorts to places like Alaska and Costa Rica, plus the citizens at those destinations.

Batt gives special recognition to the people of Costa Rica with, &8220;They&8217;re incredibly nice; just like the folks around here.&8221;

The tours to Alaska and sometimes the Yukon are arranged through Four Seasons Travel of Albert Lea. Those to Costa Rica are arranged through Good Earth Village of Spring Valley, he explained.

Batt added that a cruise to the Haines region of Alaska as part of Community Education is being scheduled for next July.

Gail and Al Batt have one son, Bryan, and a daughter-in-law, Laura, who live in New Ulm. There are two grandchildren and one more on the way.

Al is clerk of Hartland Township and on the board of the Freeborn County Township Association where he is the former president. He is also a member of the Albert Lea Audubon Society were he&8217;s &8220;held all the offices&8221; and served as president for eight years.

&8220;I do my bird watching everywhere,&8221; he explains about this activity which takes place during the tours and just driving around the region, and even in his own yard.

To encourage the birds to come to his place, Batt has an estimated 20 feeders of various types near his home.

&8220;I keep the Seed House happy,&8221; he said.

One of the real challenges with maintaining these feeders is to try to outsmart some perpetually hungry squirrels. These tree dwellers are continually trying to get to the free food in the feeders. Baffle devices help, yet the squirrels are continually trying to somehow get around these obstacles. This, in a way, provides an added bonus to bird watching.

Sometimes he and the birds win, and sometimes they lose out.

&8220;Squirrels are good problem solvers. Maybe we should send them to Washington,&8221; he said.