I hope that the people of New Richland know how fortunate they are to have a library in town. I wish there was one in every small town; even a casual place to bring one’s already-read book for others to read while you read theirs.
Having been brought up in the generation of book lovers, it should be no surprise that my mother is drawn to books like metal to magnets. Having no experience with electronic books, (maybe because she still enjoys turning the pages and the feel of a book), she admits to being a book fanatic. I used to enjoy reading books too, but since my bout with encephalitis I find it difficult to remember a great deal of what I read in books.
I knew the locals in New Richland had been working hard investing time and dollars into enlarging their library, but I hadn't had the opportunity to visit the newly renovated building. I was amazed!
Truth is, I was drawn there by the one and only Al Batt, who presented and signed copies of his first published book, "A Life Gone to the Birds.” I must admit — he is my favorite author. I read everything he writes! He boggles my mind with the many things that come out of his mind.
Hearing him speak with intelligence and laughter was enough to take away any aches and pains or tiredness of the day. It was time well spent. Granted, the book was ror the birds — no pun intended — but little things called home and family and the territory we live in often come to the surface and somehow tells you who we are and how we have become this way.
It is a challenge I would give to every individual: write about their story with the insight of good, bad, old and new that makes one’s life what it is.
The crowd assembled because they wanted to be there. They knew this man would not disappoint them. There was hardly room for more people and hopefully it is an incentive for Al Batt to share more of his stories.
There was coffee and cider, and the delicious bars that could only have come from favorite cookbooks. It was served by those who are always there with a helping hand.
Recently I had written a story about observation of crows by my uncle Paul Hanson, and set it aside for something more appropriate at the time. Ironically, attending Al Batt's book signing, I found there were others who are interested in crows too.
My uncle Paul was a wise old bird. He always said that he disagreed with the choice of naming the loon our state’s bird. We may love that big, clumsy, black and white featured creature. It can glide for seemingly forever underwater but has all the characteristics of a handicap when it tries to walk on dry land. The loon is the most handsome of the diving birds and their loud screams can sometimes be heard echoing over the lakes at night.
A typical "snow bird" is a loon heads south for the winter before the ice freezes and comes back north again when the ice is gone. They like only the finest, clearest lakes where they can find the freshest food available as they feed chiefly on fish. Love them? Of course I do, because that call of theirs vibrates across the quiet so distinctive and mournful sounding, it makes your heart beat a little faster. For many years the loons stopped over on St. Olaf Lake until the speedboats became such a big feature on the lake.
Uncle Paul used to say he felt there was a better representative than the loon for our state – “in the crow." Laugh if you would, but I think he may have been right. Like the hearty Minnesotan, the crow sticks around come hot summer, cold winter or deluge of wind, rain, sleet or snow. I don't know if that is smart or not, but they most certainly are helpful because in their quest for survival, they clean up road kill and garbage that's edible, adapting to the environment, making do with what is there.
My grandpa Hanson used to tell how the crows would follow his planter when he was planting corn and would pull up seeds and later the sprouting corn and eat them. They also eat young birds and eggs. Unlike the loon, the crow has strong feet that are well adapted for walking.
That distinguishable “caw” of the crow lets you know they are alive and well, and all is right with the world. Highly intelligent, they are a natural insecticide and rodent remover. Crows do help farmers by eating insects. Scientists estimate that an old crow on an average farm will eat 19 bushels of insects in a single season. They also have a reputation for playing tricks on other birds, animals and human beings, all seemingly for the fun of it. A trader, the crow loves bright and shiny things and is known to leave a rock in place of an item, as if in trade.
Not the most popular bird, for whatever reason many treat him as the proverbial bad boy. For this reason he is shot at, trapped, poisoned, cursed and belittled, but he ignores it as best he can and may respond in a mockery of his tormentors with his loud caw.
There are many stories to tell that "the old crows" are almost human-like in their trickery. I remember one crow picking up a mangled dead snake, which he didn't want but laid it out in tempting splendor for an owl or hawk to pick up. Mission accomplished -- another bird took the bait, and the crow and his flock took off in pursuit, cawing all the way. I laughed and laughed; this is some humor in the animal world!
Isn't there a little bit of "crow" personality in all of us? That's maybe why Paul thought they represented us better than any other bird.
If someone refers to you as an "old crow" say thank you, and remind them that the crow is not just a big black bird, he is really a hearty, intelligent bird with personality and ability. Like Minnesotans, crows are also social animals; they stick together. Isn't that a good lesson for all of us? The crow is truly worthy to represent the hard working pioneers and people who live here. And like the crow, that is why we live here!
Some of our Star Eagle readers have commented they like to read about events such as family and school reunions, birthdays and anniversaries, and birth and wedding announcements. In order to read about these important things we need our faithful readers to pass along the information to us. Also if you have an idea for a story that you think would be of interest to our readers, please contact me.
This week’s birthdays and anniversaries include:
• Thursday, May 8th: Grace Carol Jean Riskedahl, her 2nd; Olivia Kay Smith, her 8th; Kristina Follien, Marguerite Christensen Nelson, Ronald Wangsness, Elizabeth Bremer, Sandy Neubauer
• Friday, May 9th: Elli Pearl Baker, Aidan Jeffrey Schlaak, his 9th; John Jensen, Sue Pence, Jake Simmons, Julie Haroldson, Sue Hohansee, Audrey Horan, Karol Carroll, Nijole Aaseth, Rachelle Doran, Carolyn Greer, Karla Kelly, Jerry Westrum, Jill (Ottesen) & Cam Kehne
• Saturday, May 10th: Tari (Walterman) Erickson, Ryan Callahan, Tina Nelson, Steve Nielsen, Christine Ingvaldson, Dave Oeljenbrun, Mary Wilker, Brody Johnson, Mark & Sara Misgen, Rande & Jamie Nelson
• Sunday, May 11th: Michaela Ann Hanielton, Jaxon Edward Beavens and Parker Reese Beavens, their 8th; Carol Cromwell Cox, Ed Haberman, Krista Hanson, Troy Janka, Daniel Robertson, Robert Vaith, Loretta Schewe, Scott & Shannon Pacholl
• Monday, May 12th: Richie Robinson, Dorothy Jensen, Larry & Jean Klocek
• Tuesday, May 13th: Brooklyn Christine DuBois, her 11th; David Richards, Rose Glienke, Troy Donahue, Curt Esplan, John Nechanicky, Holly Pence, Tracy Swearingen, Larry Schmidt, Reed Thostenson, Rose Glienke, Alan & Kathy Knudson, John & Barbara
• Wednesday, May 14th: Clair Dahl, Linda Olson, Anna Mae Peterson, her 9th; Katie Peterson, Ginger Thompson, Bruce Waage, Brad Wayne, Judy VerHey, Mark VerHey, Jeff Christensen, Shannon Krikava
Here's hoping that your special day brings you laughter, a light heart and much love.