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Echoes From the Loafers’ Club Meeting

  I figure our fishing trip to Alaska cost us $400 for every fish we caught.

  We’re lucky.

  How is that?

  That we didn’t catch more fish.

Driving by the Bruces

  I have two wonderful neighbors--both named Bruce--who live across the road from each other. Whenever I pass their driveways, thoughts occur to me, such as: My first car had an effective anti-theft device. It wouldn’t start. Statistics show that 64 percent of people prefer to be in the majority. A good neighbor is one that lets his grass grow as tall as yours. Is there a shorter interval of time than the one between setting aside a little money for an emergency and the arrival of that emergency?

What’s in a name?

  My parents told me many stories about the party line telephone. Before Dad hung up the phone, he'd always say, "Goodnight, Mabel."

  Mabel (not her real name) was a chronic rubberer. That meant that she listened to the conversations of others on the party line. It was her Facebook long before Facebook made an appearance. Mom said that Mabel was so mad at my father, but she didn't dare say anything to him because that would be an admission of guilt.

  Whenever I encounter someone named Mabel, I think of rubbering Mabel.

  Paul Schwab of Owatonna and I are long-time friends. He told me that people often call him Gary or Jerry. He reckons it’s because he looks like a Gary or a Jerry. I know many men named Gary or Jerry, but I'm still not quite sure what a Gary or a Jerry looks like. They look like a Paul, I guess.

  My name is Allen. It fits me. I can’t imagine carrying another moniker. I imagine the naming process between my parents. My mother had obtained a dog-eared book of baby names from an aunt. Names had been circled and underlined by who knows who in the process of coming up with the perfect name for other Batts as well as Weston's, Cooks, Koch's, Sundstroms and other relatives.

  My father was an avid reader, but not of baby names books. He explained his thoughts kindly, yet firmly to my mother.

  "Look, we have no rich relatives to name him after, so that makes the process more difficult. I’m willing to choose a name from this book, but it has to begin with an A and it has to be the name of no one we know. I don’t want to burden anyone."

  They settled on Allen. No one they knew carried that name, so it brought no baggage.

  I’m the baby of the family. I was often the baby of the extended family and gathered neighbors when they tackled tractor, truck or farm implement repairs. I was more than happy to stick my nose in the works of men, but I was relegated to the position of gofer. I was sent on errands to get wrenches. I fetched things. Those were important missions, but as I look back, I’m surprised that I wasn’t named Fido.

Nature notes

  As the day darkened, there was stridulation. Stridulation is the act of producing sound by rubbing two body parts together. See if you can do it. Start with something easy like rubbing your ears together. While you’re tuning up, I’ll tell you that grasshoppers and crickets stridulate. Each species has its own distinctive song. Grasshoppers have a series of small pegs on the inside of their hind legs that are rubbed against the forewing to produce sounds. The pegs on crickets are located on a forewing, while the other forewing has a flat structure known as a file. The pegs are dragged across the file as the wings rub together to produce songs. There is cricket music that sounds like sleigh bells. That is the work of snowy tree crickets, slender, delicate looking, pale green insects. This cricket is our temperature cricket. One formula is to count the number of chirps given in 13 seconds and add 40 to get the temperature in Fahrenheit. It frequents brushy understory plants at the margin of and in woods. In cooler weather, they can be found closer to the ground on the trunks of small trees.

  You can stop rubbing your ears together now. It’s not making a sound.

Meeting adjourned

  Annette Funicello, who was Walt Disney's most popular Mouseketeer and went on to appear in a series of beach movies, said, "Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful." Not everyone knows that. Your kindness to them might reveal this wonderful secret.

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