When baseball cards came with cereal …

Published 9:08 am Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Column: Tales From Exit 22, by Al Batt

There were baseball cards on the backs of Post breakfast cereal boxes. I pestered my mother into buying Post cereal. She was happy to oblige.

She knew that cereal was better for me than the bubble gum that came with other kinds of baseball cards. I wanted to grab a scissors and cut the cards from the boxes as soon as they got into the house, but I was ordered to wait until the box was emptied of the cereal first.

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I ate a lot of Post cereals. Duplicate baseball cards were traded or ended their lives clothespinned to the spokes of my bicycle as I pretended it was a motorcycle. I could get riboflavin and niacinamide with other cereals, but with Post, I got baseball cards. And the cards were loaded with fiber.



One of my chores as a small boy was to walk through the potato plants growing in the peat ground of Mule Lake and pick off the potato bugs. I grabbed the pests and dropped them into a pail of soapy water. It was meaningful work and I was inspired by my love of potatoes.

One day, a bug crawled from the pail and dropped to the ground. I stepped on the escapee. It was a mashed potato bug.


Oh, you know, whatshisname

Names are difficult to remember. Proper nouns escape easily from experienced brains. To make matters worse, when the brain does remember an elusive name, it doesn’t always share it with the tongue. In my case, this is not surprising. When I was new to the world, there were 149 million people in the United States. Now there must be at least 315 million. No wonder I can’t remember everyone’s name.


My neighbor

My neighbor Grunting Gus used to have many trees in his yard. After the tornado hit, he had only one tree and it belonged to another neighbor. Right after the tornado, Gus bought a lottery ticket. He figured the bad luck would bring good luck. Gus told me what he would do if he won $83 million in a lottery.

“First, I’d go to the State Fair and park as close to it as possible. Then I’d replace that headlight that burned out on my car a couple of years ago. Finally, I’d buy jumper cables for everyone in my family.”

Gus is the guy who deals with telemarketers in a unique way. When one phones, he tells the caller, “I’m Amish. I can’t talk to you on a telephone.”

Gus put in his 40th crop this year. He has learned that the secret to success in farming is to get a lot done between equipment breakdowns. The best crop he raises is rocks. The glaciers left a lot of them in his fields and a new crop emerges each year. New rocks are only a stone’s throw away. Where did the glaciers go? They went to get more rocks.

There are three kinds of rocks — pickers, sliders and painters. Pickers are the ones you pick up and toss into the loader. Sliders are bigger and need to be slid to a point where the loader could lift them. A painter is one that is too big to move. You paint it brightly so you will be able to see it while combining. Remember, families that pick together, stick together.


The café chronicles

It was the kind of place where the waitress referred to a breakfast order as “scrambled cackles and oinks in strips.” It was the kind of place where when you ordered meatloaf and a kind word, the waitress brought the meatloaf and offered kind words, “Don’t eat the meatloaf.”

“What is the special?” I asked.

“It’s what is left over from last week.”

“You’re kidding.”

“Yes,” said the waitress, “But only the part about it being special.”


The first date

I had wanted her to take my name, but she was adamant that she remain a Gail and not become an Al. I’d have been married earlier, but I insisted on wearing sweater vests. A life vest keeps you from drowning. A bulletproof vest keeps you from being shot. A sweater vest keeps you from dating. I remember our first date. She was as pretty as a picture as she got into my car. The car was so rusty, she needed a tetanus shot after getting into it.

“Can you drive with one hand?” she asked.

“Yes,” I replied, my mind filled with thoughts of snuggling.

“Good,” she said. “Then wipe your nose.”


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