Al Batt: If I only had a brain in my head with more bran in it

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

We didn’t have The Weather Channel.

Al Batt

But we still had weather during my formative years. Things have changed. We continue to have weather, but today, The Weather Channel produces it, except for the wind. Wind turbines generate the wind.

When I was a clever teenager, I’d noticed that all adults talked about was the weather. I grew up in Minnesota. The weather was a constant topic of discussion. We were at a loss for words without the weather. Other states were likely the same, but I don’t know. I grew up in Minnesota.

I wanted to go where they talked about other things. My mother shed a few tears and my father gave me his old satchel for a graduation present. A satchel is like a suitcase, only it’s not. I was the baby of the family and the thought of an empty nest hadn’t bothered my father. I loved my parents, but as Bella Lewitzky said, “To move freely, you must be deeply rooted.” 

I went to college on a work-study program. It was great except for the work and the study parts. I wanted to bask in deep thoughts. It was my Yellow Brick Road to finding a brain.

I grew up on a livestock farm crammed full of endless chores. We fed animals at one end and cleaned up after them at the other end. But one day each year, work came to a screeching halt. We watched the classic 1939 film, the “Wizard of Oz” (our version of The Weather Channel) on TV. We didn’t have 1939 channels, so the correct channel was easy to find.

The protagonist was Dorothy Gale, a 12-year-old girl played by Frances Ethel Gumm of Grand Rapids, Minnesota — known as Judy Garland. Dorothy lived in Kansas with Auntie Em and Uncle Whatshisname — nobody remembers Uncle Henry’s name. A tornado transported Dorothy and her dog Toto to another world. She stepped out of the storm and into a new world. She told Toto, “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.” Dorothy was disoriented, but incredibly, could discern she wasn’t in the Sunflower State without the help of a GPS.

Dorothy befriended three characters. The Tin Man wanted a heart. He was a man after my own heart. The Scarecrow wanted a brain and expressed that desire in a song, “I could while away the hours, conferrin’ with the flowers, consultin’ with the rain.

And my head I’d be scratchin’ while my thoughts were busy hatchin’ if I only had a brain.” Dorothy asked the Scarecrow how he could talk without a brain. He responded, “I don’t know, but some people without brains do an awful lot of talking, don’t they?” He could have been talking about me. The Cowardly Lion wanted courage and Dorothy wanted to go home. Toto wanted kibble. Their only hope was The Great and Powerful Oz, who granted wishes. They traveled together on the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City, home to the Wizard. They were “Off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz.” 

On the Yellow Brick Road, a green Wicked Witch got in the way. The witch coveted Dorothy’s ruby slippers and threatened her, “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too!” Dorothy and her friends worried about fearsome creatures, saying, “Lions and tigers and bears, oh, my!” I said that before every exam I’ve taken. They encountered flying monkeys. Who hasn’t? The flying monkeys shredded the Scarecrow, who said, “They tore my legs off and they threw them over there. Then they took my chest out and they threw it over there.” The Tin Man replied, “Well, that’s you all over.

 The Wizard of Oz proved to be a fraud and went from being an enormous, disembodied head floating in smoke and flames to just a guy behind a curtain. Dorothy was steamed, and said, “I think you are a very bad man.” The Wizard replied, “I’m really a very good man, but I’m a very bad wizard.”

But he was good enough to give the Scarecrow brains made of bran, pins and needles. Boom goes the dynamite!

I’m still searching for a brain.

I hope the Scarecrow didn’t get mine.

Al Batt’s column appears in the Tribune every Wednesday.