A smile is cheaper than a new address

Published 9:12 am Saturday, November 1, 2008

My neighbor Crandall stops by the cafe.

“How are you doing?” I ask.

“Everything is copacetic,” said Crandall as he tears off one end of the paper cover on a drinking straw and dips the other end into the ketchup bottle. He blows into the straw, shooting the straw’s jacket at the ceiling where it sticks.

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Allison Wonderland, the friendly waitress, keeps a wary eye on the sticky straw wrapper clinging precariously to the ceiling as she says, “I suppose you two meatheads have been watching baseball on TV. It gives my husband something to fall asleep to. I don’t understand the game.”

Crandall pipes up, “It’s a simple game. It’s played by two teams, one out the other in. The one that’s in sends players out one at a time to see if they can get in before they get out. If they get out before they get in, they come in, but it doesn’t count. If they get in before they get out it counts. When the one out gets three outs from the one in, the one that’s out comes in and the one in goes out to get those going in out before they get in without being out. When both teams have been in and out nine times the game is over. The team with the most in without being out wins unless the ones in are equal. In which case, the last one in goes out to get the one in out before they get in without being out. The game ends when each team has the same number of ins out but one team has more in without being out.”

What will the winter bring?

At the conclusion of a training session for election judges, County Auditor Dennis Distad asked me what the winter would be like according to the forecasts of the woolly bear caterpillars. This prophecy is based upon the folklore that says the more black there is on a woolly worm, the more severe the winter.

I answered his question by saying that it would be a great winter.

Del Boyken, a fellow judge, asked a follow-up question, “What is a great winter?”

I replied, “It’s the one we’re going to get.”

We have no say in the weather. Unless we are willing to relocate, it’s best to accept the weather we are given and rejoice in it.

A smile is cheaper than a new address.

Nature lessons

The ancient Chinese viewed the moon as a hare.

We have a need to be connected to something bigger. Being bitten by a mosquito is connecting with nature.

The hummingbird’s brain accounts for about 4.2 percent of the bird’s total body weight–proportionately the largest brain among birds.

According to Pliny the Elder, ticks are “the foulest and nastiest creatures that be.”

According to Harvard, .6 percent of the United States is paved roads. Add parking lots, foundations of buildings, sidewalks, etc. and the percent rises to 1.29.

A ruby-throated hummingbird that weighs about 4 grams consumes 3.5 calories per day. A human with the metabolism of a hummingbird would need to consume approximately 155,000 calories.

If a man has 20/20 vision, an eagle has 20/8 vision.

Blue pigment does not occur in birds. The blue we perceive in their plumage results from a scattering of light by prism-like particles of melaninon the barbs of feathers.

Q and A

“Are there plants one can use to keep stray cats away?” I’ve heard that cats really hate rue, zinnias and lavender. Some scatter human hair, citrus peels or pipe tobacco. I’m not betting that any of these are effective.

“Where does the white go when the snow melts?” Snow may look white, but it is actually clear. Because there was no white, it went nowhere.

“Why don’t we get the first frost on a windy night?” Prolonged stillness is required as a slight breeze can prevent the formation of a terrain-hugging microclimate.

“Why does my wife feel colder than I do?” Women tend to have a greater ratio of surface area to body mass than do men, so they lose heat faster.

“Did you ever have your tongue stuck to cold metal?” No, there was no little Al Batt unable to move away from a flagpole in the playground. That fact surprises me, too. Metal is such a good conductor of the cold that a tongue can become flash frozen to the object. I wouldn’t advise licking a warm flagpole either.

“When do deer have antlers?” The bucks grow a new set of antlers each year. Antler growth, hardening and shedding are regulated by changing testosterone level. Changes in day length stimulate the pituitary gland in the brain which regulates the production of reproductive hormones like testosterone. New antlers begin developing in early summer. This rise in testosterone causes velvet shedding and hardening of the growing antlers during September-October. Breeding peaks in November and by mid-January nearly all receptive female deer are pregnant. The testosterone levels begin to drop, influenced by shorter day length. Falling testosterone levels cause antlers to be shed during late January through early April. Young bucks and deer in good physical condition tend to retain their antlers into late winter and early spring. Most bucks have no antlers during late February through April.

“How high can birds fly?” In 1973, over the Ivory Coast, a Ruppell’s griffon was hit by a jet at 37,000 feet. It might have been elevated by a thunderstorm. Swans were at 27,000 feet over the Hebrides in 1967 and a mallard was sighted at 21,000 feet over Nevada in 1962.

“How do ducks float?” They have hollow bones and they are equipped with uropygial glands that allow them to put waterproof oil on their feathers.

“Do birds stock ponds with fish?” Fish eggs eaten by birds are quickly digested. Fragile eggs that cling to the feet or bodies of birds do not survive flights. Fish eggs have thin membranes, causing them to perish when removed from water.

“Why do the red-winged blackbirds disappear in the summer?” In late July or early August, the redwings disappear. They join other redwings in a secluded marsh and undergo a molt that concludes in September. Shortly thereafter, they begin their migration.

Thanks for stopping by

“Crediting bug zappers for keeping blood-sucking insects away is like claiming that snapping your fingers is what is keeping the bears off your porch.”—Bernd Heinrich

“The purpose of life is to live a life of purpose.”–Richard Leider


Al Batt of Hartland is a member of the Albert Lea Audubon Society. E-mail him at SnoEowl@aol.com.