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{Straight From the Heart}   *Binoculars*  2/2/01


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Another great story by one of my favorite writers!  Enjoy today's story
by our Minnesota neighbor to the north, Al Batt!
P.S.  Happy Birthday to Diedra Mueller, Kim Gilbank, Coach Witte, Kathy Pann,
Sara Douglas, and a belated one to my mother-in-law Carole Merwin!


By Al Batt

One of the great joys of my life is being able to lead field trips looking at birds, flowers, trees, mammals and anything else in nature.  Leading children around a state park is a particular joy to me.   There is nothing quite like seeing something through the eyes of a child who is seeing it for the first time.  I never cease to marvel at their enthusiasm and willingness to express their awe. 

Not long ago, I was walking with a group of 5th graders at Myre-Big Island State Park.  There were about 75 Scarlet Tanagers in the Park this day and I wanted to make sure every one of my charges got a good look at these beautiful birds.  A Scarlet Tanager male, with his bright red and lovely black colors, is an "Ahhh Bird".  Whenever anyone sees one of these birds through binoculars or a spotting scope, they cannot help but issue an, "Ahhh." 

This day, I was leading 15 kids in a group.  I had brought along 8 binoculars for the kids to use.  The idea was that they would share the optics.  It was a good idea-and like most good ideas, it was better in theory than in practice.  But the kids were great.  Kids are great.  Every generation says the same thing, "What's the matter with the kids today?  Why can't they be like we were-perfect in every way?"  I want to tell everyone that there is nothing wrong with the kids today. Society may have some problems, but the kids are wonderful.  The kids were using the binoculars as you might expect them to.  They were looking at the heads of other kids and saying, "Ew!  Cooties!"  They would turn the binoculars around so they were looking through the big lenses and then look at their feet saying, "This is what my feet would look like if I were 30 feet tall."  They did find the time to see the birds.  The tanagers worked their magic on these children.  The kids made sounds like they were seeing fireworks.  I couldn't help but wonder if one of them would be hooked on birds as I am.  My hopes were fulfilled-every child had a good look at the tanagers. 

As we continued our hike, a girl by the name of Becky began to walk with me, matching me stride-for-stride.  She was bubbling.  "These are the greatest binoculars I have ever seen!" she gushed.  "Why, I'm seeing things I've never seen before.  These have to be the best binoculars in the world."  I guessed they were the only binoculars she had ever peered through. I appreciated her enthusiasm--no one values optics and their magic more than I do, but the binoculars were far from being the best in the world.  They were well worn from years of constant use.

I told Becky the story on how I came to possess those glasses.  When I was about 11 years old, I was given a bird book published by Capper's Weekly.  It was a tremendous book.  It was a pleasure to be able to put a name on the birds I was seeing and hearing.  Shortly after getting this book, I made the decision to become the "Birdman" of Hartland, Minnesota.  There seemed to be an opening in that position.  There was only one thing preventing me from becoming the "Birdman," I had no binoculars.  What kind of a "Birdman" could I be without binoculars?  I started making subtle hints.  I would cut out binocular ads from my brother's "Field & Stream" and Sports Afield" magazines and leave them lying about the house where my mother would see it.  I nailed a couple of the ads to the walls of our outhouse. I had decided to concentrate my campaign on my mother, as she was much more likely to succumb to my pleadings than was my father.  Mother would say, "I wonder who that is going up Joe Holland's driveway?"  Joe was a neighbor.
"I don't know," I'd reply. "But I'll bet if I had a pair of binoculars, I could tell you."
My persistent, understated approach worked.  My mother, with money she did not have, went to Montgomery Ward's  and bought me binoculars on the layaway plan.  Dad would complain about money being spent needlessly at "Monkey Ward's," but Mom would prevail.  I do not know how long it took Mom to come up with the required funds, but one day she presented me with a gift that I had hoped and prayed for.  I loved my mother even more than usual, if that was possible, that day.   It sounds hokey to say so, but those binoculars changed my life.  Just as Becky was, I began seeing things that I had never seen before.  

Once I had finished my story, I looked down at Becky.  "I hope?," she said.
Oh, I knew what she was going to say.  She was going to say that she hoped her mother would buy her binoculars.  Or that her Dad would buy them for her.  Or maybe, if she was like I was at her age, she'd say, "I hope you give these to me."  But she didn't say any of these things.  What she said was, "I hope that when I grow up and I have a little boy, that I buy him some binoculars just like these."  Suddenly I felt tears in my eyes.  This little girl had learned something by the time she was in the 5th grade that takes most of us a lifetime to learn, if we ever learn it.  Becky knew that what we carry with us all the days of our lives is not what we grab and accumulate along the way.  What we carry with us is what we do for and give to others.  My mother told me that I could never lose what I gave away.  Becky told me that my mother was right.

Al Batt,  1997

Send Al an email and let him know what you thought of his story!
Al lives on a farm in Minnesota with his wife, Gail.  Al is a writer, a newspaper columnist, a radio personality, a speaker and a storyteller. 

Al Batt
RR1 Box 56A
Hartland, MN 56042
The following short story sounds like something I would do!

Over breakfast one morning, a woman said to her husband, "I bet
you don't know what day this is."
"Of course I do," he indignantly answered, going out the door to the office.

At 10 AM, the doorbell rang, and when the woman opened the door,
she was handed a box containing a dozen long stemmed red roses.

At 1 PM, a foil wrapped, two pound box of her favorite chocolates
arrived. Later, a boutique delivered a designer dress.

The woman couldn't wait for her husband to come home. "First, the
flowers then the chocolates, and then the dress!" she exclaimed.
"I've never had a more wonderful Groundhog Day in all my life!"


Thought For The Day:

"Sometimes the Lord calms the storm; sometimes he lets the storm rage
and calms His child."

Verse for the Day:

"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your
hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."--Philippians 4:7

Kid's Thought For The Day:

"Whoever said you can't buy happiness forgot about puppies."

Parent's Thought For The Day:

"After all that money your father and I spent on braces, that's the biggest
smile you can give us?"

Coach's Thought For The Day:

"Sandwhich every bit of criticism between two layers of praise."
Mary Kay Ash

Deep Thought For The Day:

"Scientists say pets can lower your blood pressure. I guess
that is true... unless of course your pet is evil."

\_\  /  
/_/  \    "For I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but
\_\/\ \   Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body I live for the Son
   \_\/   of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2:20 

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