Dill pickles will always be a star in my show

Sometimes you feel like a nut. A blue jay always feels like a nut. AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
By : 

We used to have chickens. I liked having them around. When a chicken walked by, I’d say, ”There goes a chicken.“ I miss saying that.

I’d miss dill pickles, even though they don’t do much walking past, if I no longer had them. When I was going through some medical treatments, only three items tasted good to me: Mashed potatoes, iced tea and dill pickles. My brother-in-law, Doug Bushlack, and I discussed the gifts to the taste buds provided by pickled asparagus, pickled eggs and pickled pig’s feet.

I expressed the opinion that the greatest disappointment in the pickle realm is when one mistakes a sweet pickle in disguise for a dill pickle. I seldom expect the unexpected when eating pickles. When that happens to me, I yell like Al Pacino.

I flashbacked to a day when I was having lunch with my father at Vivian’s Cafe. The worst food I ever had there was wonderful. The soup of the day was a creamed version of yesterday’s soup of the day. I sampled a sliced pickle, hoping it was dill and not a sweet one disguised as a pickle. Sweet pickles made me say, “Ish!”

It was dill. It was good.

I had to share both my happiness and relief with someone. I saw Bud Wilhelm. He worked with my brother and his daughter was in my grade school class.

“Hi, Bud,” I said, all friendly like. 

My father nearly spit out his beef commercial.

“Don’t call him that,” he whispered, much too loud to my thinking.

“Doesn’t he like his name?” I asked.

My father gave me a look as if I had ticked on his tac toe and said, ”To someone your age, he’s Mr. Wilhelm.” 

We all grow up or do we?

When I was his age, I was making forts out of sofa cushions, avoiding injury from a woodburning set and marveling at how intelligent Bullwinkle was. He was skiing off the roof of the house. Downhill skiing.

One of his siblings tattled on him. His father had this talk with him, “If you’re going to do that, don’t let your mother catch you.” 

That boy has grown up. Kind of. This year he was late getting to the family Christmas party because the local gas station didn’t open until 10 o’clock and he needed to buy Christmas gifts.

The mother of that young man once gave her daughter an excuse slip for missing a day of school that said to excuse her child for no apparent reason. It worked.

Echoes From Loafers’ Club

Have you made any New Year’s resolutions?

Just one.

What is it?

To stop hanging around people who ask if I’ve made any New Year’s resolutions.

Driving by Bruce's drive

I have a wonderful neighbor named Bruce. Whenever I pass his driveway, thoughts occur to me, such as: I stopped at a bakery and at a meat market on the same day. I took in over 500 calories just by inhaling deeply. That was a good day. But it didn’t come close to the day I watched my granddaughter, Joey, set the record for the most points scored by either girl or boy basketball player at New Ulm High School. She did it by sinking a free throw. As it swished, I leaped from my seat. My heart out-leaped me. Disney could have hired me. I was Goofy. I had a smile like a wave across a slop-pail. I’m proud of her. She works hard at everything she does. Every experience has a value, but having a grandchild like Joey is priceless.

Nature notes

I watched a northern harrier (once called a marsh hawk) hunt on the wing, coursing in a wobbly manner low over the ground. It was likely searching for voles. Unlike other hawks, it relies on a sense of hearing as well as vision to capture prey. The northern harrier is a long-tailed hawk with a white rump patch. It nests on the ground.

Woodpeckers drum on resonant wood to declare their territories. Listen for chickadees singing “fee-bee,” another sign of the days becoming longer. Increasing daylight causes the blue jay to sound its pump-handle call, sometimes called the “spelunker” call. I’ve been hearing the hooting courtship calls of great horned owls in the night. The calls are deep, soft hoots with a stuttering rhythm, “hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo.” The female is larger than her mate, but the male has the deeper voice.


It looked like a fairyland. The trees were white. Hoarfrost is a deposition of ice crystals on objects like tree branches, wires and poles without the moisture passing through a liquid phase. It typically forms on clear, cold and calm nights. Hoar is a reference to the frosty coating and comes from the word hoary, meaning white or gray with age. Rime is similar, but different. It’s ice that forms when fog droplets freeze upon coming in contact with objects.

The temperature was supposed to drop. I think it was likely due to the cold. A little winter snarkiness there. Sorry. The night’s activities are often inscribed in the snow, but the snow had melted or hardened, making clues difficult to find. I picked up trash from the road ditch. Like a crow, I pick up shiny things from the ground.

Blue jays were having a collective cow as I walked. Jays are known to eat eggs and nestlings of other birds, but in a study of blue jay diets, only 1 percent of jays showed evidence of having eaten eggs or baby birds. The diets of the jays studied were composed of mostly insects and nuts. The oldest known wild blue jay was at least 26 years, 11 months old.

On the subject of studies, researchers discovered that opossums have impressive memories when it comes to food. Opossums were found to be better at remembering food locations than were cats, dogs, pigs and rats. Any mammal can get rabies, but the chance of finding rabies in an opossum is extremely slim.


“How fast do a deer’s antlers grow?”

A white-tailed buck’s antlers begin growing in April and are fully grown by mid-August. Depending upon the source for this information, his antlers grow 1/4 inch to an inch per day.

“Have you ever heard of a Manitoba fly trap?”

It’s a cone-shaped canopy/trap open at the bottom and standing on three legs. A black ball is suspended from its center. Horse or deer flies are attracted to the black sphere and are captured in a collection chamber after they fly into the upper reaches of the trap.

“What happened to the barn owls I used to see in Minnesota?”

It’s probably due to changes in agriculture that has reduced grassy habitats. Barn owls aren’t made for cold weather. A barn with livestock was just the ticket for a barn owl. Barns can buy happiness. Barns provided shelter, heat and food (rodents). We used to have more pastured land, which provided hunting grounds for barn owls. Both barns and pastures have declined in number.

“Did I see a red fox or a gray fox?”

A red fox has a white tip to its tail and a gray fox has a black tip to its tail. Mating for foxes peaks in February, with kits born in April or May.

“Do sapsuckers harm trees?”

Yellow-bellied sapsuckers drill sapwells in many species of trees and woody plants, but have a strong preference for birches and maples, trees with high sugar concentrations. Sapsucker sapwells are approximately 1/4 inch in diameter and are typically numerous holes drilled in horizontal rows. The sapwells attract hummingbirds. Sapsucker damage could make a tree vulnerable to other problems, such as insects, disease or decay fungi. The yellow-bellied sapsucker is the only woodpecker in eastern North America that is completely migratory.

“How common are spider bites?”

Not common unless you’re a fly. Most suspected spider bites are bites from other creatures such as fleas. Spiders have no reason to bite people. We’re not food for them and many spiders aren't capable of piercing human flesh.

Thanks for stopping by

"When I started counting my blessings my whole life turned around." — Willie Nelson

“One should pay attention to even the smallest crawling creature for these, too, may have a valuable lesson to teach us.” — Black Elk

Meeting adjourned

“Life is mostly froth and bubble, two things stand like stone. Kindness in another's trouble, courage in your own.” — Adam Lindsay Gordon


© Al Batt 2019