Al Batt: Hey, Rover and Tabby, spit out that grass over there

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, July 9, 2024

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Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

It was a catchy little tune.

Al Batt

I was humming along with the refrigerator while I ate breakfast — my habitual repast of oatmeal with blueberries, toast covered with peanut butter and honey, a banana and a cup of English breakfast tea.

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It was raining, thrilling the ditch ducks (mallards) once again.

I’ve heard that when a cat or dog eats grass, it means that it’s going to rain. We need to stop those pets from eating all that grass or encourage them to eat more so I can sell the lawnmower.

I moved to the indoor shower. I never wonder if I should take a shower or a bath. It’s always a shower. Why? It’s quicker, my robber duckie doesn’t steal my bar of soap and it’s my habit. A bathtub is a lek for both rubber duckies and robber duckies. I watched prairie chickens on a lek this spring. A lek is an assembly area where the prairie chicken males go to act foolish and make noise enough to meet females. They danced and boomed. It’s the way they display courtship behavior. We’ve all been there, haven’t we, guys? A couple of raptors flew over those birds. They were northern harriers, once called marsh hawks. The prairie chickens paid little attention to the males (gray) but flushed when a female raptor (brown) flew near. Perhaps it’s because female hawks are bigger than males. It’s called reversed sexual dimorphism. The males marry up.

I could save time by taking a milk bath and pouring some Cap’n Crunch cereal into the tub, allowing me to bathe and eat breakfast at the same time. Despite the danger of falling asleep in a bath, which never happens to me in a shower, a bath is safer than a shower. That’s because when my wife is moderately peeved at me for no good reason, she might “accidentally” flush the toilet while I’m in the shower.

After drying myself and expressing gratitude that my skin is waterproof, I dressed and discovered I tilted slightly to one side. Was it another diminishment of age? No, it was because I’d lost the worry stone I’d carried in my pocket for years. A worry stone is also known as a palm stone or thumb stone. Mine was a small, polished, oval-shaped gemstone with a thumb-sized indentation. I held the stone between my fingers and thumb, and rubbed my thumb gently up and down it. That simple action could be calming and comforting. I don’t worry about losing the talisman. That stone taught me not to worry.

During a brief respite from the falling rain, I sat on the deck in the few rays of sunlight escaping the clouds. I took a gander at the water settled in a cornfield. Farmers have a lot of liquid assets this year. It reminded me that the official sports drink of my youth was well water. I had a second cup of tea and a fine book. Life rocked until I became breakfast. A mosquito bit me. Only the female mosquitoes bite. How do they deal with rain? Do they carry umbrellas they’ve shoplifted from Walmart? Mosquitoes combine a strong exoskeleton with a low mass to minimize the force of each raindrop. Mosquitoes become one with a raindrop, using their wings and long legs to lift themselves from the falling droplets before crashing onto the ground. When raindrops hit mosquitoes close to the ground, they’re slammed to the earth at the same speed as the falling drop. The palm of my hand did the job that the raindrops couldn’t.

A daddy longlegs (aka harvestman) hid under my deck chair. The vernacular name “daddy longlegs” refers to several species, with names varying with location, but in these here parts, a daddy longlegs is the one under my chair. Internet education claims it’s one of the world’s most poisonous spiders, but its fangs are too short to bite humans. A daddy longlegs has no venom, isn’t a spider and doesn’t bite us. It has long, slender legs and an oval body that makes it difficult to tell where its head ends and its abdomen begins. This arachnid may lack venom, but it emits a weird odor when disturbed. Who doesn’t?

Keep your powder dry.

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