Al Batt: Here be dragons, midges, chipped windshields and shitepokes, oh my

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, May 21, 2024

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Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

Someone should write a song about it.

Al Batt

Spring is filled with hints and hopes.

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I recall walking face-first into a fly ribbon meant to catch flies. It had caught flies, and the side of my face joined them in a sticky predicament. For a moment, I felt unequal to the new challenge. Fly ribbon (tape, strip, paper) comes in a small tube from which the twisted ribbon emerges. That ribbon hung in a place where flies and tall guys were a nuisance.

I should have seen it coming, but it was hiding in the shadows. And my mind was elsewhere. A mind is like a browser with too many tabs open. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, but it could have been worse. It could have been a bug zapper.

If it had been a bird, I’d have seen it. I look for birds, not fly ribbons. Every creature is a masterpiece. It’s good to get outdoors to escape fly ribbons. We don’t walk through doors, we walk through doorways, and we don’t have to hurry just because someone is holding a door open for us. Getting outdoors is much better than getting out windows. You never know what you might encounter. I spoke at a thing in Texas. An audience member said her husband sat around the house all day with no clothes on. “I tell him to put on some clothes, but he tells me to go slap flies. He says that as long as we’re not having any company, who cares? I asked him, ‘Then why are you wearing your cowboy hat?’ He said, ‘Well, you never know.’”

I led an owl prowl at a state park. A barred owl was an active participant. I drove home on a dark country road when it happened. It sounded like rain hitting the car. I couldn’t dodge them all. There were two reasons: there were too many of them and I wasn’t driving a Dodge.

Multitudes of midges collided head-on with my car. The insects were playing chicken with my vehicle. A lesser car would have wobbled like a Weeble.

Midges are often mistaken for mosquitoes, but midges don’t bite us and there are nasty rumors that mosquitoes do. An adult mosquito has a proboscis, an extended straw-like tube extending from its head for sucking up fluids. Midges don’t have a proboscis. Midges are the most abundant aquatic insect in freshwater. According to the DNR, midges are commonly called fish flies or lake flies, and the first midge hatch occurs in May. These tiny flies form massive swarms near a lake and at a light at dusk. Fish gobble them up in the water, and birds feed upon them once the insects are airborne or on the ground.

A mayfly (fish fly or shadfly) is bigger than a midge and has large wings and a pronounced tail. Mayflies remain stationary more than midges, which tend to scatter. They are harmless and have short lifespans, averaging around a day. Mayflies emerge when the water temperature is warmer than when midges take flight.

I got home late and left early the following day to get a chip in my windshield repaired. No, the midges didn’t damage the glass. Something flying from a truck hauling glass-chipping material caused it. An astonishingly abundant number of midges covered my windshield and the front end of my car, blurring my license plate. I’d had no time to scrape the insect carcasses from the windshield, but the fellow performing the repair cleaned the glass as much as humanly possible, and I didn’t need to wrestle my wallet from the back pocket of my jeans because my insurance policy had no deductible for glass damage.
I scurried northward.

As I drove past the Opportunity Drive exit to St. Cloud, a great blue heron flew low over my car. A colloquial name for a heron is “shitepoke” because of its habit of lightening its load when flushed into flight. This heron took the opportunity to do something other than drive. It put a deposit down on my windshield. The whitewash hit the glass with incredible accuracy.

It was all good. When you’ve been caught in flypaper, things like midges and shitepokes are mere speed bumps.

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