Al Batt: I’d been prepared to perform mouth-to-bill resuscitation

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, January 23, 2024

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Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

“Good morning,” I told myself.

A guy I used to know said, “Morning.” No adjective added.

Al Batt

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He figured if the morning was good or not was up to the person he had greeted.

It had been a significant storm. It was apparent that I hadn’t agreed to winter’s terms and conditions. I’d just clicked “yes” without reading. I endeavored to dodge the slings and arrows of winter. The wolf wasn’t at the door, but a wild turkey was staring in the window.

I had reasons to be in Bemidji, Albert Lea, Kasson and Crookston, but the weather gave me one big reason to stay home. It was blustery and bitterly cold, with snow as a cherry on top. The wind had shouted the night away but had subsided by the time I’d staggered out of bed early the following morning.

“It’s up to 8 degrees below zero,” I told my wife as I went outside to shovel snow. The secret to dressing for winter is to come the closest to having too many layers without going over. I was a modern-day Don Quixote tilting at windmills. I watched a snowplow go by. It may have been tilting at windmills, too, but I was envious of the amount of snow it moved. After its roaring had outdistanced my ears, I heard a fluttering sound. I’m a birder. Part of my mission statement is that I must investigate fluttering sounds. I’ve whittled my current mission statement down to 54 double-spaced pages.

Then I saw a flickering. Part of my mission statement is that I must investigate any flickering outside a screen. I remember studying the periodic table of elements in high school. I learned the element of surprise is Oh! I was surprised to discover the sound was a European starling trapped in an arborvitae where two of its toes had become encased in an ice cube anchored to a small branch. Many people don’t like starlings for varied reasons. Some say they’re the junk food of birds and that doesn’t mean they are quick eating and too salty. I didn’t wonder how or why the bird was in a severe predicament, and I had no time to ask. I needed to act fast, as my decision would determine if the bad guys won or lost. Sorry, but I read comic books during my formative years. I tried to free the bird, but the ice was as hard as a rock. I went into the house and emerged with a dandy Artisan slip joint pliers with blue insulated grips I used to squeeze the ice cube carefully until it shattered, and I did it without injuring the starling. No surprise. I hate to brag, but I once removed butterflies from the stomach of a patient named Cavity Sam with a pair of tweezers (electro probes) during a spirited game of Operation.

I ran the starling up the hoist in my mind to see if it showed any injuries. I worried that its pilot light might have dimmed, but in my professional opinion (I once played a patient being loaded into an ambulance in a video), the bird was in tip-top condition. Its foot showed no visible injuries, it appeared alert (the world needs more lerts) and its eyes were bright.

I’ve known people who had pet starlings. As an unprotected bird, they can be kept as pets, even though it’s difficult to find a chew toy for a starling. There are books written about these talented mimics.

Starlings hang around here all winter. Why not? They have everything they need. Pliers. I whispered to my patient that it should avoid further contact with all ice cubes.

I released the starling. It flew as fast as time into a tree. Somewhere, Marcus Welby, M.D., smiled. I was pleased that mouth-to-bill resuscitation hadn’t been necessary. Starlings can learn to talk. This one made a sound as its wings beat an escape. It might have said “Thank you,” but I doubt it.

I wished my mother was still around. When she’d ask me what I did today, I could tell her I’d earned my daily allotment of oxygen by saving a starling.

“Will it be on the 6 o’clock news?” she’d say.

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