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Al Batt: I do all my own stunts

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

I’m just browsing.

That’s what I’d say if I ever surprised a grizzly bear that was carrying an assault rifle, right after it bumped its painful bruin bunion against a birch stump. Fortunately, I’ve never surprised a grizzly bear that was carrying an assault rifle, right after it had bumped its painful bruin bunion against a birch stump.

I’m a chronic walker. Not Walker, Texas Ranger. Chuck Norris can sit faster than I can walk. It’s too late for me to pull the ripcord on my walking. I walked 10 miles one way to school. It was uphill both ways. I went to school seven days a week because our calendar was broken.

We walk to justify a slab of pie or a scoop of ice cream. And to get the gravy out of our veins, to practice delight and to keep from lollygagging. We walk to lose weight, on doctor’s orders, to find answers, to work things out, to move beyond, to find treasure in the moment or because we don’t want to wear a seatbelt. I walk because I’m owned by a Fitbit. It’s like a dog, urging me to walk by providing a nag factor. The only difference is that my Fitbit doesn’t sniff everything and I don’t have to carry a plastic bag to pick up after my Fitbit.

In 2017, I read a book titled “Nomadland,” which has enjoyed outstanding success as a film. It told of a step-slow worker in his 70s who walked 15 miles a day on concrete for his job at an Amazon warehouse. I’ll bet the fellow walked uphill in his dreams. The old joke is that someone’s uncle walked five miles each day. He’s done that for 25 years and now the family has no idea where he is. A neighbor had an ancient Hudson automobile, but he walked 4.5 miles to town to get groceries and he walked home (another 4.5 miles) with a bag of groceries in each arm. I stopped one day and offered him a ride home. He told me that if he’d wanted a ride, he’d have driven his car. He didn’t say it rudely, but stated it matter-of-factly. I understood. A man needs to walk when and while he can. We talked through my car’s window as he walked. We said our goodbyes and parted.

A fellow I knew walked to the bar each day. He smoked because coughing while walking to the bar was the only exercise he got. It took him 10 minutes to walk there and an hour to walk back home. The difference was staggering.

Where I live in rural Minnesota, there are three kinds of people. Some go to Texas for the winter, some go to Florida and some don’t understand the weather. One year my wife and I were walking on a big ranch in Texas. The dinner bell must have sounded as a stampede of Texas longhorn cattle headed right at us. I couldn’t find a doodlebug trap pit large enough to dive into. We’d been walking with others. One guy told us he was with the CIA. I believe everyone unless they are running for office, but I wondered why he shared this with strangers in the middle of an endless ranch in Nowhere, Texas. Besides, he had no briefcase handcuffed to his wrist. A cattle stampede could put a trampled bow on one’s day. The guy who might have been with the CIA whispered he was going to stand still and the beasts would go around us. I’ve never been a matador working close to the horn, but I’d worked with cattle and knew that was true, but I didn’t 100% know because you never know 100% of anything. I told my wife we should line up single file behind the guy who might have been with the CIA. We did that. The bovines stormed by close enough I could smell alfalfa on their collective breath. We escaped unscathed but nervous.

Gary Snyder wrote, “Walking is the great adventure, the first meditation, a practice of heartiness and soul primary to humankind. Walking is the exact balance between spirit and humility.”

I make more tracks than necessary. I walk to places a hoop and a holler away and to those that are far-flung, but I’ve moved from scrambling up challenging elevations to looking for short hills to climb.

If I can’t leave deep footprints on the world, I can leave as many as possible.

Al Batt’s columns appear in the Tribune every Wednesday.