Al Batt: The wind brings uninvited gusts to my neck of the woods

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

The trees gossiped in the wind.

“It’s a nice day, except for the wind,” says everybody capable of putting eight words together.

Al Batt

I’ve been picking up sticks in the yard. Great crop this year. I’ve picked rocks, too. It’s a spring habit. What do you call a boomerang that won’t come back? A stick. The wind finds branches or limbs with weaknesses, rips them free and deposits the sticks into the yard. The wind has been so strong this spring that it might have blown in the field rocks, too.

Before there were video games, we played pick-up sticks with thin wooden or plastic sticks. To begin the game, 20 to 50 sticks were bunched in one hand and held vertically on a table, floor or another flat surface, then released and allowed to fall in a jumble. Each player took turns attempting to remove a single stick from the pile without disturbing another. If successful, he grabbed a second stick, but if another moved, the player’s turn ended. The player with the most sticks when the heap was depleted, won fame and fortune. The game is supposed to be of great antiquity, but it didn’t provide good training for picking up sticks from a yard.

According to many sources, wind speeds in Minnesota are usually highest in April and lowest in July and August. They’re generally greater in the day than at night. Wind speed typically increases with altitude — that’s why tall people like me are most affected by the wind. I’ve found the windiest month in Minnesota is whatever month I’m in.

The wind howled as I stumbled down the street after leaving the post office. I leaned into the wind. According to legend, the wind stopped suddenly one spring day without any weather advisory and everyone fell over. It knocked the wind out of some fragile folks. I walked with my head down like I was searching for that dime I lost when I was seven. A plastic bag zoomed past as if it were late for an important appointment. It was headed to a large tree bending in the wind where a flock of its fellow bags was roosting. I’d tucked in my shirt to keep from being lifted into the air. I had rocks in my pockets to stay earthbound. Those, when combined with the rocks in my head, kept me grounded on a blustery day.

DNR records show gustier times in Minnesota began in 2011, with annual 30 mph gust days increasing dramatically over previous levels. Research done in 2019 by Princeton University showed average daily wind speeds are increasing across much of the globe. I’m blown away by those revelations. Walking against the wind might become an Olympic sport. The windiest states are Alaska, Wyoming and Michigan, according to Wilbur Whistlebritches, nicknamed Windy. He said if they’re not, then the windiest states are Nebraska, Kansas and South Dakota. Either way, Minnesota wasn’t standing on the winner’s podium, but most of Minnesota is windier than the Windy City (Chicago). Rochester frequently makes the top 10 list of the windiest cities with either Amarillo, Texas, or Dodge City, Kansas, often topping that list. Dodge City gets a lot of wind from the swinging doors of the Long Branch Saloon shown in “Gunsmoke” TV reruns.  

The father in the comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes,” said sneezing trees created the wind. If that’s true, and everything in the funny pages is, we pay the price for trees having allergies.

 A guy I know told me he’d been kiteboarding (kitesurfing) in an effort to make the wind his friend. The extreme sport requires the participant to ride a modified surfboard while holding onto a massive kite and using the wind for propulsion. I’ve put that activity at the very bottom of my list of things to do.

 I believe it’s getting windier, but why? Is it due to climate change, the flat-earth conspiracy having merit, the proliferation of air fryers, it’s a side effect of a common prescription drug or because wind turbines are producing wind? I don’t know. I’m going to need a bigger boat for all the possibilities.

 But I haven’t found a single wind denier.

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