Al Batt: I love the smell of wet squirrels in the morning

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, July 2, 2024

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Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

I couldn’t see a sun in the sky.

Al Batt

It had either overslept or clouds covered it.

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I took a deep breath.

I sucked up a couple of mosquitoes into my nose. They were small ones, about the size of robins. I said, “I love the smell of wet mosquitoes in the morning,” paraphrasing Robert Duvall, who, as Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore in the movie “Apocalypse Now,” said, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”

On the subject of our beloved mosquitoes — did you know mosquitoes can fly, but flies can’t mosquito?

It was the dawn of a new day. Despite my snorting mosquitoes, it didn’t really smell like wet skeeters. It smelled like wet squirrels.

It had rained every day except for the days when it didn’t. It was drench warfare that had left the ground sodden. I walked down a trail. It’s a happy place for me and the greatest hall pass ever. I encountered a lot of clothes-captioning during my walk — Patagonia, Columbia, North Face, Eddie Bauer, L.L. Bean, Marmot, etc. We become walking advertisements who pay for the privilege. A fellow walker told me he’d been crying for no reason. I had to explain the rain to him. He’d forgotten what it was due to the drought.

My wife and I attended the funeral of a friend. He’d carried some stories. From the age of six through his teenage years, he was in the Owatonna Orphanage, where he was indentured to families as free farm labor. I dropped my wife off under the canopy by the front door and parked the car. As I walked toward the funeral venue, I became waterlogged as the rain fell ferociously. I recalled an eternal truth. An umbrella is a roof on a stick, but it does little good if I don’t use it.

A few days later, my wife and I waited in the checkout line when the rain came down in buckets, turning the store’s roof into a percussion instrument. It rained so hard, the people in the line looked up from their phone screens.

My wife showed me videos of flood damage. My heart went out to the folks suffering losses. Why does my wife have to show them to me? I was a boy back when everything wasn’t available on video. If a cat wanted to do something cute, it had to be content doing it in front of a small, live audience. My wife is in charge of dispersing videos. I never consider doing that because it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks.

Because we didn’t have access to cute cat videos, we needed to go for Sunday drives. Some Sunday drives were taken on days other than a Sunday, but seemed like Sundays. How did a Sunday drive work? Everyone piled into a vehicle willing to start and we headed down the road. What did we do? We looked at things. Unruly weather was the inspiration for many Sunday drives. Eyes inspected any damages. We checked crops and weeds. New cars, fence mending and remodeling projects were gawked at. Meeting a car bearing out-of-state license plates was a reason for conjecture. Remember, we didn’t see a video of everything.

The weather enjoys raining this year. There has been so much rain that it dampened my excitement about the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum unveiling a limited-edition Cicada Bobblehead. That’s Christmas shopping on a stick.

A kid asked me how three elephants could stay dry under one tiny umbrella. They use it on a sunny day.

The sump pump unemployment rate had skyrocketed during the drought. Now, a sump pump can get all the overtime it desires.

I listened to the rhythm of the falling rain. Pitter-patter, pitter-patter. It was an endless pitter-patter of a little raindrop feet. I needed to wear ear protection. The pitter-patter was the sound of the rain falling on my noggin, not on my umbrella. That’s because I wasn’t using an umbrella.

The rumor is that I own an umbrella. It’s unsubstantiated. I must keep it and my powder dry. I need an inflatable umbrella that fits into my wallet.

Until I get one, I’m going to enjoy the smell of wet squirrels.

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