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The Bat


Sun, Sep 24th, 2000
Posted in

Monday, September 25, 2000

There have been radio programs, comic books, and television shows featuring people who have, for reasons of their own, assumed some of the characteristics of the little brown bat. As far as I know, all these attempts to emulate the bat have been fictional. Behaving like a bat in the real world would likely either get one incarcerated or elected to a high state government office. My experience with the brown bat shows they have a strong will to survive, but little drive to right wrongs or to promote the American way.

We are encouraged to love our neighborly bats because of their appetite for mosquitoes. I am convinced that it is this "any enemy of a mosquito is a friend of mine" attitude that helps bats maintain a good public image. It also helps that they do what they do at night, thereby out of sight and out of mind. Simply eating mosquitoes and dining out at night has earned bats the prestige of being a protected animal. Not every flying creature gets such consideration. Imagine if a pigeon got into your house and clung upside down to your new drapes. Would any federal, state, or international law preserve and protect its right not to get whacked with a tennis racket? Not likely.

Bats and I have an understanding. If they leave me alone, I leave them alone. Except one time I have to admit, I played a trick on one. It was purely in the interest of science, of course, not out of meanness. One night, my sons and I were coming in from the barn. The bats were flying and dining at the Green Yard Light Cafe. We stopped to watch them for a moment and admired their ability to find food without the benefit of sight. How good was their radar, we wondered? How can they tell a bug from something inedible? We put them to the test. As the bats swooped in for prey, we began tossing small bits of crushed rock into the air. Within seconds, a hungry bat, no doubt sensing he was in for the main course at the bug buffet, tried to take a junebug-sized rock. We heard his teeth hit the limestone morsel. The befuddled bat continued flying and, we hope, lived long after to tell his grand-bat babies about the monster bug that caused him to be missing a couple eye-teeth. As science goes, that question was answered.

Eventually, a bat or two or three or four find their way past our damper and fly around inside our house. This is an occasion for much screaming and hiding. It would be hard to imagine that the unlawful entry of a card-carrying ax murderer bent on exercising his harrowing skills could cause much more racket. Certain members of the family, including the cat and the dog, sequester themselves in safety while the lonely and the brave go afield in the living room to open the doors to let the little brown flappers out the door.

Before I wised up to the beneficial aspects of the bat, I used to whack them with a broom. This knocked them senseless so that I could pick them up and toss them out on the lawn. I quit using a broom one Saturday evening. I had spent the afternoon making spaghetti sauce and was looking forward to a quiet supper with the family. Suddenly, we were victimized by an onslaught of bats never before experienced. There were too many to count or keep track of. We let most out the doors, but I ended up swinging the broom at a couple of them. I knocked at least one down, maybe two or three, but remembered throwing out only one. In the back of my mind, I wondered if maybe there wasnt another bat somewhere on the floor or even up on a chair where the dog or cat might find it. That didnt happen, so I judged the crisis was over. Minutes later we sat down to supper. I dipped the ladle into the spaghetti sauce that had been cooking in an open pot on the stove. I froze in disgust. Sure enough, I had dipped out a bay leaf. Darn bats have wings that look just like bay leaves.

I will never hit a bat again.

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