Al Batt: Vulture food doesn’t arrive on a velvet cushion

Published 7:14 pm Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt


I felt as if I’d had a tough day of work at the thumb tack factory.

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No one ever sits down there.

I was tired. I’d just had another birthday, so my fatigue had become more experienced.

My lunch wasn’t sitting well with me. It hadn’t been prepared properly. I blamed the cook. I was that cook.

I listened to the car’s radio. I enjoy listening to the radio. It mostly makes me a little happier. It informs and entertains without demanding the attention of both ears and eyes. And I didn’t have to stand in line or visit a ticket window to hear it. I cast my memory back to the radios I grew up with that were often tuned to WCCO, named for Washburn Crosby Company, the predecessor of General Mills. The reach and influence of that 50,000-watt station was impressive and far surpassed its current situation. I loved listening to Boone and Erickson, a show done by a dynamic duo named, well, you’ve probably guessed the names of the two gentlemen. The word “uffda” was commonly heard while my ears were aimed in their show’s direction. They did skits. A friend reminded me of their “Gil and Fin,” characters who were the only two anglers named after fish parts. I digress.

I drove down or up one of our highways or byways — it might have been the high road or the low road; I’m not sure — but I’m sure I was listening to an oughter talk on the radio. An oughter is someone who is always telling others what they ought to do. I hoped he’d tell me to stop trying to cook.

In an odd chain of events, within a few days, I’d been to Ocheydan, Iowa, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin and Wayzata, Minnesota. Those are three cities that are mispronounced more often than “often.” Or maybe not. In the couple of weeks before, I’d been in Nimrod, Minnesota, and What Cheer, Iowa.

I’d just been to a visitation for a friend where I wished my puny words were more powerful.

Not long after leaving the funeral home, I pulled my vehicle to the side of the road, hoping for a pep talk from nature. A turkey vulture was eating a skunk. A dead squirrel was nearby, so the vulture had a chance at a double helping. I’ve seen vultures eat many kinds of carrion — raccoons, opossums, cats, rabbits, deer and my cooking. I’m kidding about them eating my cooking. I’ve never seen anything or anyone other than me eat my cooking. I have eaten raccoon. There is a reason that it’s not found on the menus of fast food restaurants.

A great horned owl hunts and eats skunk. And they do so without even employing a single ketchup packet, let alone a bottle of catsup. Skunk is pepperoni pizza to that owl, which is a winged tiger.

When I was a lad, back when royalty’s biggest worry was how to get peasant blood off their shoes, most people called vultures “buzzards.” They aren’t truly buzzards. Vultures eat carrion, eliminating such putrefaction for the betterment of society. They don’t portend doom. Buzzard is the British name for certain hawks that belong to the genus Buteo. North America’s red-tailed hawk is a member of that genus. If you’d like to join up and become a Buteo, please be forewarned that there is a painful initiation process. When America was being colonized, English speakers observed the vultures, like England’s buzzards, made lazy circles in the sky. What you call a vulture doesn’t matter to the bird. It’s not coming when you call it.

Turkey vultures don’t slay anything, not even injured cowboys in old movies. They don’t even tear the wings from butterflies. Cherokees called them a name that meant “peace eagles” because they survived without killing. Vultures eat what someone else prepared. That’s what I should always do. I usually eat something that a real cook has provided. Vultures eat things supplied by a Dodge that didn’t. They devour things that a 1979 Mercury Bobcat wouldn’t eat.

Vultures have an immune system that wards off most nasty bacterium. I’ve read that a group of vultures feeding on a road-killed animal is called a wake. That seems like a good name for them.

If you eat a skunk with soggy crackers the first thing each morning, there is a pretty good chance the rest of your day will be an improvement.

I figure any day I don’t eat a skunk is a mighty fine day.

Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Saturday.