My family frequently went for drives. There was no purpose other than looking and looking some more. Then we’d talk about what we’d seen. We looked at road conditions, the advancement of crops and animals — wild and domestic. We waved at everyone. There is a state law stating you must wave at everyone you see while you travel on gravel roads. We occasionally stopped at the A&W root beer stand. The name came from the founders, Roy W. Allen and Frank Wright. This drive-in had carhops — lovely young women who served customers who remained in their cars. A&W offered Papa, Mama, Teen and Baby Burgers. The burgers were based on size, not age. I had to decide which burger and declare whether or not I wanted cheese on it. It was a difficult thing, not unlike trying to solve a perplexing math problem covered in ketchup.

Nature notes

I’d been out the door at 4 a.m. I’d awakened without an alarm clock, as I tend to do when I look forward to something. There were birds that needed counting. They were counting on me. I did a Breeding Bird Survey in June. I’ve been doing the same route for many years. I counted birds for three minutes each at 50 regular stops. At one stop,  a fox squirrel walked down a farm drive and right up to my car. It gave me a baleful look while sitting up on its rear legs. Satisfied that I was a harmless man who had been fairly warned, the squirrel ambled back up the drive from whence it had come. It was obviously a watch squirrel.

I watched five wild turkeys walk bean rows. I’d done the same thing when I was a young turkey. I was pleased to see several sandhill cranes fly over. The day was filled with newly minted robins, grackles and starlings.

A red-winged blackbird male flew down from a tree and landed on the back of a Canada goose gander. The gander was in the company of his missus and a few goslings. This makes ganders particularly aggressive, but this guy put his head down and rushed to a pond as the blackbird rode along as if he were in a saddle, pecking and prodding the gander. The goslings and the missus waddled behind. Once in the water, the gander was freed of his tormentor. I hoped the goslings would one day be able to look again at their father as if he were all-powerful.

Al Batt is a syndicated columnist. For questions or comments about this article, contact Al at


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